Bangkok tops GDCI for third straight year

Bangkok tops GDCI for third straight year

City saw most visitors in 2017, says Mastercard

A foreign tourist walks along Ratchadamnoen Road. Bangkok was the No.1 global destination city for international overnight visitors for the fifth year in six. NUTTAPOL LOHAKIJ
A foreign tourist walks along Ratchadamnoen Road. Bangkok was the No.1 global destination city for international overnight visitors for the fifth year in six. NUTTAPOL LOHAKIJ

Thailand has continued to see significant growth in the travel sector, making it the only country with three of the top 20 global destination cities, according to the seventh annual Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index (GDCI).

The index ranked Bangkok as the No.1 global destination city for international overnight visitors in 2017. It's the fifth time in six years and the third straight year that Bangkok has grabbed the top spot.

Phuket and Pattaya, both popular tourist destinations, also ranked in the global top 20 destination cities at 12th and 18th, respectively.

For the first time, Phuket broke into the top 10 destination cities by money spent. The GDCI expanded to 162 cities this time, up from 132. It's the first year the global findings have included Phuket and Pattaya.

With 20.05 million international overnight visitors in 2017, Bangkok edged out London (with 19.83 million visitors), which ranked second for the second year running.

Other cities in the top 10 were Paris (17.44 million), Dubai (15.79 million), Singapore (13.91 million), New York (13.13 million), Kuala Lumpur (12.58 million), Tokyo (11.93 million), Istanbul (10.7 million) and Seoul (9.54 million).

For Bangkok, the top three feeder countries were the same as in 2017: China, Japan and South Korea.

Average spending per day in Bangkok was US$173, far lower than $537 in Dubai, $301 in Paris and $286 in Singapore.

The growth forecast for 2018 indicates across-the-board growth, with Istanbul expecting the largest uptick in visitors at nearly 20% and Bangkok likely to enjoy 9.6% growth.

"The fact that Thailand is the only country to have three destinations in the top 20 underscores the importance of robust infrastructure, a good mix of business and leisure attractions, and the unique local culture that Thailand is renowned for," said Donald Ong, country manager for Thailand and Myanmar at Mastercard.

He said the efforts of government agencies, including the Tourism and Sports Ministry, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, are vital factors in maintaining above-average growth in the tourism sector.

Thailand has hosted a number of international events in the past year, while the Thai government has expanded visa exemptions for short-stay tourists and implemented special immigration checkpoints for Chinese tourists.

These factors, paired with the fact that Bangkok is seen as more affordable than other major cities such as Paris, Singapore and Seoul, are contributing to Bangkok's continued success as the No.1 destination city worldwide.

Miguel Gamino Jr, executive vice-president for global cities at Mastercard, said international travel is crucial to many urban economies, enriching the lives of both residents and tourists.

"The bar is rising for cities to innovate to provide both a memorable and authentic experience," he said. "We're partnering closely with cities around the world to ensure they have insights and technologies to improve how they attract and cater to tourists while preserving what makes them so special in the first place."

The Tourism and Sports Ministry forecasts 37-38 million foreign visitors to Thailand this year, generating 2 trillion baht in tourism revenue.

In the first eight months of 2018, 25.88 million foreign tourists visited Thailand, a 9.9% increase from the same period of last year, generating 1.35 trillion baht, a 12.9% year-on-year rise.

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