BANGKOK, Sept 26 ― In addition to being the most popular destination in 2016, Bangkok is forecast to become the most visited city in the world by year's end for international travel.
According the latest edition of the annual MasterCard Destination Cities Index, the Thai capital received 19.41 million international overnight visitors in 2016 ― a figure that's expected to grow another 4 per cent this year to 20.19 million.
Rounding out the top three spots is London, which is forecast to receive 20.01 million international overnight visitors by the end of 2017, and Paris, which trails at an estimated 16.13 million.
Globally, international overnight visitor arrivals across all 132 destinations studied have grown by 55 per cent since 2009, points out the report.
But the biggest movers and shakers around the world lie mostly in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, which has seen a 15 to 24 per cent growth in international visits over the last seven years.
The list of fastest growing destinations, for instance, is led by Osaka which saw 24 per cent growth since 2009, followed by Chengdu (23 per cent) and Colombo (20 per cent).
The report also looks at spending power among visiting tourists, and found that international visitors to Dubai are the biggest high rollers: In 2016, tourists spent US$28.5 billion (RM119.8 billion).
That figure is expected to grow another 10 per cent this year to US$31.4 billion.
Dubai enjoys a big lead over its next competitor, New York, where international tourists spent US$17.02 billion, a figure that's expected to rise a modest 1.5 per cent this year.
One of the biggest losers this year is London, where the fallout from Brexit is expected to result in negative growth (-5 per cent) in tourist spending.
The index also revealed spending trends in some of the top 20 destination cities. For example, visitors to Seoul spend the most on shopping (57 per cent), followed by London (47 per cent), Osaka (43 per cent) and Tokyo (43 per cent).
Visitors to Istanbul and Prague can expect to shell out the most on food and dining (34 and 29 per cent respectively), while accommodation eats up most of a traveler's budget to cities like Paris (45 per cent), Milan and Rome (both 40 per cent).
Here are the top 10 cities in the MasterCard Destination Cities Index:
1. Bangkok, Thailand ― 19.41 million visitors in 2016 (20.19 million forecast for 2017)
2. London, England ― 19.06 million visitors in 2016 (20.01 million forecast for 2017)
3. Paris, France ― 15.45 million visitors in 2016 (16.13 million forecast for 2017)
4. Dubai, UAE ― 14.87 million visitors in 2016 (16.01 million forecast for 2017)
5. Singapore ― 13.11 million visitors in 2016 (13.45 million forecast for 2017)
6. New York, USA ― 12.70 million visitors in 2016 (12.36 million forecast for 2017)
7. Seoul, South Korea ― 12.39 million visitors in 2016 (12.44 million forecast for 2017)
8. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ― 11.28 million visitors in 2016 (12.08 million forecast for 2017)
9. Tokyo, Japan ― 11.15 million visitors in 2016 (12.51 million forecast for 2017)
10. Istanbul, Turkey ― 9.16 million visitors in 2016 (9.24 million forecast for 2017) ― AFP-Relaxnews