Half of the world's most popular travel hot-spots are in Asia

11 September 2019 Consultancy.asia 3 min. read

Bangkok has retained its number one ranking as the world’s premier tourist destination for the fourth year running on Mastercard’s latest Global Cities Destination Index, welcoming over 22 million visitors last year. Singapore meanwhile is fast closing in on the 15 million mark and fourth place overall.

Bangkok has once again reigned supreme as the world’s most preferred tourist destination – coming in at first for the fourth year in a row on Mastercard’s annual Global Cities Destination Index. Singapore meanwhile continues its charge up the rankings with a 4 percent rise on the previous year to 14.67 million overnight international visitors – to now be closing in on top-four stalwart Dubai – while Kuala Lumpur has leapfrogged New York into sixth place globally.

Altogether, the Asia Pacific’s six most popular destinations, which further included Tokyo, Seoul and Osaka (ranked 9th, 11th and 12th overall), accounted for around a quarter of the region’s total overnight visitors, with each location bar Singapore forecast for ongoing growth at upwards of 9 percent. Driven mostly by the explosion of outbound travel from mainland China, these cities are also capturing more than one quarter of the total regional travel spend.

World's busiest tourist destinations

For Singapore, that was a visitor outlay of $16.56 billion (the fourth largest amount globally), while Phuket pulled in over $12 billion (the tenth-most) despite finishing at only 14th on the list by weight of numbers – ranking the island as the destination with the highest expenditure per resident by a sizeable margin. Bangkok with a $20 billion take figured at third behind Dubai (a whopping ~$31 billion, at an average spend per night of $553) and the Saudi holy city of Mecca.

According to the Mastercard analysis, the Asia Pacific region hosted over 340 million business and leisure trips last year, more than double the figure in 2009 – with spending following suit to rise from ~$117 billion in 2009 to ~$281.1 billion less a decade on. As an illustration of the influence of the Chinese economic boom, travellers from Mainland China made up just 7.3 percent of Bangkok’s arrivals in 2009; today that figure stands at 37.3 percent of the inbound market.

Top 20 Asia Pacific Destinations

“Chinese travelers are discovering all corners of the region in unprecedented numbers, turning sleeping giants into tourism hotspots that create fertile ground for governments, tourism boards, brands and businesses as they plan and promote their offerings,” the report states. “Since 2009, overnight arrivals by mainland Chinese travelers in markets across Asia Pacific surged from 10.5 million to 62.4 million in 2018, representing a 21.9 percent compound annual growth rate over the period.”

China, South Korea and Taiwan are also among the top fifteen sources countries for global tourism – together helping to mark Japan as just about the hottest tourist market worldwide, even before it hosts this year’s Rugby World Cup and the next Olympic Summer Games. Tokyo, Osaka, Hokkaido, Chiba, Okinawa, and Kyoto all feature among the region’s top twenty or so destinations, while all of Oita, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Kyoto, Gifu and Nagano are among the top ten fastest growing.

“While mainland China serves as a focal point for Asia Pacific’s top destinations, there are also bright spots in South Korea, Japan and India,” concluded Rupert Naylor, Mastercard Senior Vice President of Data & Services for the Asia Pacific. “As travelers from these markets continue to increase by remarkable percentages year over year, it is imperative that we bring together resources from both the public and private sectors to help tourism partners better understand commerce patterns and deliver attractive experiences for eager travelers from across the region.”