Last updated: 04:00 PM ET, Thu June 04 2015

Asian Cities Prevail in MasterCard Index

Destination & Tourism | James Ruggia | June 04, 2015

Asian Cities Prevail in MasterCard Index

PHOTO: Bangkok placed second in MasterCard's Global Destinations Cities Index. (Courtesy of Tourism Authority Thailand)

While it may be impossible to knock London off the top spot in MasterCard’s Global Destinations Cities Index, it was otherwise a triumph for Asian cities, led by Bangkok. In 2014 London had a record year and Mastercard’s projections believe the city will beat its own record with 18.82 million foreign visitor overnights in 2015. Bangkok comes in second with 18.24 million international overnight visitors and is catching up with top-ranked city, London.

The top 10 cities crossed the finish line in this order: London– 18.82 million; 2) Bangkok – 18.24 million; 3) Paris – 16.06 million; 4) Dubai – 14.26 million; 5) Istanbul – 12.56 million; 6) New York– 12.27 million; 7) Singapore – 11.88 million; 8) Kuala Lumpur – 11.12 million; 9) Seoul – 10.35 million; and 10) Hong Kong – 8.66 million. In its five years of keeping this statistic, London and Bangkok have always topped the Index.

The MasterCard Index of Global Destination Cities ranks cities in terms of the number of their total international overnight visitor arrivals and the cross-border spending by these same visitors in the destination cities, and gives visitor and passenger growth forecasts for 2015. Public data is used in deriving the international overnight visitor arrivals and their cross-border spending in each of the 132 destination cities, using custom-made algorithms; paying special attention to eliminate the hub effects for destination cities such as Singapore, Dubai, Amsterdam and Frankfurt.

It’s the second year running that London topped the index, which provides an in-depth ranking of the 132 most travelled cities from around the world. London is projected to get 18.82 million international visitors in 2015, according to the annual report, putting the capital ahead of Bangkok. Both cities have topped the index throughout its five-year history. Overall, nine European cities ranked in the top 20 destination cities by international overnight visitors as follows: Barcelona (12th), Amsterdam (13th), Rome (14th), Milan (15th), Vienna (18th) and Prague (19th).

Just recently, the Office of National Statistics International Passenger Survey showed that London received 17.4 million international visits in 2014 – more than ever before. London used events such as art exhibitions, popular entertainment, sporting and cultural events to get the edge over the top. Of course, the caveat in these numbers lays in proximity to thriving source markets. Asian and European cities have an overwhelming advantage because of their proximity to nearby thriving markets of foreign short-haul travelers. That caveat makes the performance of New York and Dubai really outstanding as neither has the advantage of those short-haul proximities. As Mark Twain said, “There are lies, damned lies and statistics.”

Most Asian overnight visitors come from within Asia where the top five feeder cities to Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur in 2015 are all in Asia Pacific. Mastercard warns that the lack of diversity in the origin of visitors to many destinations in Asia, “presents risks to long-term resilience to any global economic shocks.” It encourages these successful destination cities is to keep diversifying their source markets and to strive for a diverse portfolio.

The Global Destinations Cities Index also shows that seven of the 10 fastest growing cities by visitor number over the last six years are in Asia. In order they are: Colombo – 21.1 percent; 2) Chengdu – 20.7 percent; 3) Abu Dhabi – 20.4 percent; 4) Osaka – 19.8 percent; 5) Riyadh – 18 percent; 6) Xi’an –16.2 percent; 7) Taipei – 14.9 percent; 8) Tokyo – 14.6 percent; 9) Lima – 13.9 percent; and 10) Ho Chi Minh City – 12.9 percent.

In an altogether different ranking, Germany placed third out of 144 nations in this year’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index; its third top three ranking in three years. Germany earned 5.22 out of a maximum of 7.0 points, the World Economic Forum awarded Germany with third place out of 144 nations in the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index 2015. Spain – ranked in first place for the first time – received 5.31 points. France narrowly secured second place with 5.24 points.

As Petra Hedorfer, CEO of the German National Tourist Board said, “Only 0.09 points separate the top three countries – proof for the strong competition and the top travel destinations’ high proficiency level. Being the only country to claim a top three position for the third year in a row confirms the strong base that we build upon when marketing Germany as a travel destination. It also shows the need to continuously market Destination Germany to stay top of mind with the travelers.”

The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) at a glance measures 141 countries according to 14 different aspects. The TTCI honors the economic and social strengths of the various countries' travel and tourism sectors. At the same time, it points out the potential with which the studied countries can improve on their tourism performance.

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