Thailand's capital, Bangkok, edged out Paris and London as the world's most popular city to visit, according to a survey released on Wednesday, welcome news for Thailand after worries over a drop in foreign arrivals.
Bangkok was named the most-visited city for the fourth consecutive year, with about 22.8 million visitors reported in the annual rankings by MasterCard.
Paris and London were ranked second and third, each with about 19.1 million arrivals, trailed by Dubai with 15.9 million.
Other Southeast Asian cities, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur were fifth and sixth in the rankings, based on third-party research, proprietary analysis and public data across 200 destination cities.
New York, Istanbul, Tokyo and Antalya, Turkey, rounded out the top 10.
The number of international visitors across the 200 cities grew by 76 per cent in the last 10 years.
While no Australian city made the top 20 for international visitors, Australians were among the world's biggest travellers, coming in at number 10 and representing 2.3 per cent of all travellers to the 200 cities in the list. Americans came in a number one as the largest group of international travellers, followed by the Chinese, Germans and the British.
Australia's top three destinations according to the index were Bali, Singapore and New York. Sydney's reputation as an expensive place to visit was backed up by the city coming 17th in the rankings for the most spent by international visitors.
Despite Bangkok's longtime reign atop the list, the Thai tourism industry has faced headwinds, with arrivals dropping 1.03 per cent year-on-year in May before recovering to grow 0.89 per cent in June from a year earlier.
Tourism accounts for about 12 per cent of Thailand's economy.
However, weaker Chinese economic growth and a boat accident last year led to a drop off in Chinese arrivals in Thailand in the first half of this year.
The downturn in the number of visitors from China was partially offset by Indian arrivals.
Thailand expects to welcome 2 million Indian tourists in 2019, the governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Yuthasak Supasorn, told Reuters, adding this was one year earlier than its target.
In August, the government extended a waiver of a 2,000 baht ($96) fee for visa-on-arrivals for tourists from 18 countries including those from China and India.
A growing middle class and increasing wealth in populations and the rise of low-cost airlines will make travel more accessible, Minor Hotels Chief Executive, Dilip Rajakrier, said in an email.
"Given only less than 10 per cent of the China's total population having passports today. The potential of the Chinese market will never fade," he said.
The world's most popular cities for international visitors
- Bangkok 22.78 million
- Paris 19.10 million
- London 19.09 million
- Dubai 15.93 million
- Singapore 14.67 million
- Kuala Lumpur 13.79 million
- New York 13.60 million
- Istanbul 13.40 million
- Tokyo 12.93 million
- Antalya 12.41 million
- Seoul 11.25 million
- Osaka 10.14 million
- Makkah 10.00 million
- Phuket 9.89 million
- Pattaya 9.44 million
- Milan 9.10 million
- Barcelona 9.09 million
- Palma de Mallorca 8.96 million
- Bali 8.26 million
- Hong Kong 8.23 million