Bangkok loses status as top city

SINGAPORE - Political conflicts in Thailand have caused Bangkok to lose its position as the world’s top destination city to London, according to the MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index 2014.

Foreign tourists visit Wat Pho in Bangkok. Thailand’s capital has been overtaken by London as the top-ranked destination city. (Seksan Rojanametakul)

Bangkok relinquished its top spot to London but still came second, retaining its leading position among Asia-Pacific cities despite an estimated 11% decline in international visitors to 16.4 million this year.

The political unrest has taken its toll on Thai tourism since the last quarter of 2013.

London is the world’s No.1 destination city with an estimated 18.7 million visitors this year. It has been a tight race between London and Bangkok in recent years.

Bangkok overtook London last year to become the top destination city with 18.5 million visitors compared with 17.3 million for the British capital.

According to MasterCard, London was also the top city in terms of visitor spending, estimated at US$19.3 billion with 13.4% growth in 2014. New York came second with 13% growth to $18.6 billion, followed by Paris with 7.7% growth to $17 billion.

Singapore moved above Bangkok to claim fourth position. Visitor spending in Singapore grew by 7.6% to $14.3 billion, while Bangkok dropped by 17.7% to $13 billion.

Bangkok's top five feeder cities were Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Shanghai. All five markets showed a drop due to the impact of political uncertainty in Thailand.

Singapore is the biggest feeder city for Bangkok. While also serving as an origin city for visitors to Bangkok, Singapore is also a major gateway for travellers to reach Bangkok.

Despite all five feeder cities being in Asia-Pacific, 42% of visitors to Bangkok came from outside the region. In fact, Bangkok has a very diversified network of feeder cities and origin countries, which explains Bangkok’s well-known resilience as a tourism hot spot.

Yuwa Hedrik-Wong, global economic adviser to MasterCard, said international visitors and their spending are powerful transformation forces in destination cities from business, social and cultural perspectives.

“Since 2009, we have seen cross-border travel and associated spending growing at a faster rate than real world GDP,” he said.

Mr Wong said the continued growth of travel across borders reflects a continued interest and desire for new cultural experiences from all sectors including the growing middle class in many emerging markets who now have purchasing power.

Matthew Driver, president for Southeast Asia of MasterCard, said the index serves as a gauge for understanding the global economy and travel connectivity.

The prominence of Southeast Asian cities demonstrates the importance of trade and tourism to these economies, all whom have clearly benefited from investment in travel capacity and infrastructure.

Now in its fourth year, the index provides an overview and ranking of 132 of the most important global cities.

About the author

Writer: Chadamas Chinmaneevong
Position: Reporter