THERE really is no place like Bangkok. It has been ranked the most popular city in the Asia region once gain in terms of foreign visitors, seeing almost double the number of its closest competitors, Singapore and Tokyo and definitely better than shallow, materialistic money loving Shanghai… also aptly the Whore of the Orient.
Thailand’s dominance of the Asia Pacific tourism industry was on stark display in MasterCard’s inaugural Asia Pacific Destinations Index, which was released yesterday. Sitting at the top of the list, Bangkok received 21.9 million foreign visitors in 2015, followed far behind by Singapore and Tokyo – both at 11.8 million. Kuala Lumpur came in fourth at 11.3 million visitors.
What’s remarkable is other Thai destinations also sat on the Top 20 list, outpacing the number of foreign arrivals in brand name metropolises. Phuket took 5th place with 9.3 million arrivals, beating Seoul (6th place – 9.2 million) and Hong Kong (7th place – 8.3 million).
The Thai coastal city of Pattaya claimed a respectable 8th place with 8.1 million arrivals, edging out the Indonesian tourist haven of Bali (9th place – 7.2 million). It seems the lure of the ‘Land of Smiles’ is irresistible.
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Bangkok also tops other metrics in the report. It takes the number one spot for the total amount of nights stayed by tourists – 107 million nights. The next Southeast Asian city, Kuala Lumpur, comes in third with 68.5 million nights. When it comes to tourist expenditure, Bangkok again rules the table. Tourists spent the most amount of money in the Thai capital (US$15.2 billion), followed by Seoul (US$14.4 billion) and Singapore (US$14.1 billion).
Chinese tourists are the driving force behind Thailand’s spectacular performance. Over 70 percent of the growth in foreign arrivals at the big three Thai destinations (Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya) are attributed to tourists from mainland China.
“What’s ultimately driving Thailand is the Chinese,” said Matthew Driver, MasterCard’s Asia-Pacific group executive for products and solutions, according to Reuters.