Bangkok will become the world’s most popular city for tourists this year, ahead of London, according to new research.
Thailand’s capital, the first point of entry for thousands who head to the country’s beaches, has been named the number one destination for international visitors in 2013's Global Destination Cities Index forecast.
The index predicts visitor numbers based on scheduled flights and the estimated spend by tourists for 132 different destinations around the world.
Bangkok is expected to welcome 15.98 million international arrivals this year, just beating London, which is expecting 15.96 million visitors. London topped the index last year when it officially received 15.5 million international visitors, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The index has been compiled annually by MasterCard since 2010 and this is the first year an Asian city has been named the number one destination.
The other cities predicted to make the top five are Paris, despite an expected drop in visitor numbers this year, Singapore and New York.
London should be the top European city for visitors once again, followed by Paris, Istanbul, Barcelona and Milan. The speedy rates of growth shown by Istanbul indicated it could possibly overtake Paris in 2016. Between 2009 and 2013, Istanbul had the fastest growth in air travel connectivity of the cities in the index.
Overall in 2013, Asian cities were notably higher up the list, comprising 42 of the 132 cities that were ranked.
In Australia, Sydney and Melbourne failed to rate highly for expected visitor numbers, coming in 15th and 25th place respectively for the Asia/Pacific region, but both cities were in the top 10 in the region for visitor spending.
Thawatchai Arunyik, deputy governor of domestic marketing for Thailand’s Tourism Authority, described the news as a “tribute” to the city.
The author of the report, Dr. Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, said: “Bangkok brought with it great momentum from last year. Its ascent to number one is not only a first for Asia, it’s emblematic of the rise of the global south which encompasses much of Africa and Asia as well as South America.”
Most international visitors to Thailand in the first quarter of this year were from China, amounting to more than 1 million arrivals, according to official figures that also registered 6.8 million visitors to Thailand in 2013 so far.
Tokyo also fared well in the index, having made a strong recovery in 2012, following the 2011 earthquake.
In North America, New York was the highest ranked destination, leading Los Angeles and Miami. Mexico City is expected to receive the most visitors in Latin America.
The Telegraph, London