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Asia’s Cities Rising as a Travel and Spending Destination

According to the World Tourism Organization, Asia Pacific is the fastest-growing tourism region in the world with the strongest growth (+6%), of an additional 14 million visitors in 2013.

Southeast Asia was the best-performing sub-region, with a 10% increase over 2013.  In fact, in 2013, MasterCard’s Global Destination Cities Index forecast Bangkok to be the world’s top destination city, and this trend continues with Southeast Asia in the index’s 2014 edition.

In 2014, Bangkok (No. 2), Singapore (No. 4), and Kuala Lumpur (No. 8), are the top three Asian cities on the index, with Hong Kong (No. 9), and Seoul (No. 10) close behind. Other Asian cities that ranked well on the index are Taipei, Shanghai, Tokyo, Mumbai, and Beijing.

Growth is expected for each of those cities except for Bangkok, which is forecast to see an 11% decrease in international overnight visitors, due to the current Thai political situation. Several other Southeast Asian cities also featured prominently for growth, including Jakarta forecast to grow 18.8%, Hanoi at 15.1% and Manila at 14.3%.

Spend growing and arrivals too thanks to Asia’s travel hubs

Given how traveler spending is an increasingly important source of business revenue, cities are getting much more sophisticated in how they market to tourists with new attractions, dining and shopping festivals as well as cultivating their cultural heritage and protecting historical sites.

According to MasterCard’s Index, Bangkok (US$13.0 bn); Singapore (US$14.3 bn); Seoul (US$11.5 bn); and Taipei (US$10.8 bn) are projected to be amongst the top 10 global destination cities for spend in 2014. Traveler spending is expected to grow for these cities, with the exception of Bangkok.

If you extend the big spenders’ list to the top 20 global destination cities, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo and Sydney rank at 11, 12, 14 and 17 respectively revealing the continued growth in Asia Pacific tourism. The dynamism of a destination city is closely affected by its feeder cities – the cities where its international visitors come from or via which they are transiting through.

The top 5 feeder cities for Bangkok, for example, are Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and Shanghai all major travel hubs in their own right which reflects the diverse appeal of Bangkok as a destination. In fact, Bangkok has a very diversified network of feeder cities and origin countries (42% of visitors to Bangkok are from outside of the Asia Pacific region), which explains its resilience as a tourism hotspot and international hub.

To conclude, the Global Destination Cities Index forecast bodes very well for the region. The continued rise in international visitors reflects the region’s growing importance in global trade and tourism, as well as its connectivity and momentum for continued expansion.

This strength is further boosted by rapidly growing middle class at home and in large population markets like China, India, and Indonesia. These coupled with improved infrastructure and innovations in all forms of travel from low cost carriers to the very best in luxury will continue to fuel the robust growth of travel and cross-border spending.

Which emerging markets in Asia do you think have the highest potential to make it to the global top 10 ranking for international visitors? Let us know by leaving a comment in the box below.

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