These 5 cities attract a quarter of all travel spending in Asia Pacific


Bangkok city view from above, Thailand.

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Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo and Seoul have emerged as Asia Pacific’s most popular travel destinations, according to a new study.

Those five travel hotspots attracted over one-fifth (22%) of all overnight visitors to the region last year, Mastercard’s annual Asia Pacific Destinations Index found Wednesday. They also received the region’s greatest travel spending, bringing in over a quarter (25.2%) of all travel expenditure among the 161 cities studied.

The region’s top four travel destinations in 2018 remained unchanged from the previous year. For the ninth year running, Bangkok (1) and Singapore (2) retained their strongholds, welcoming 22.8 million and 14.7 million overnight international arrivals respectively.

Kuala Lumpur (3), the region’s front-runner in 2009, edged in on Singapore with 13.8 million travelers, but retained third place. Meanwhile Tokyo remained the fourth most popular city, attracting 12.9 million guests.

South Korea’s capital Seoul was the only new entrant to the top five destinations in 2018, having been overtaken by the Thai island of Phuket the previous year.

The leading cities’ vast visitor numbers reflect a larger surge in inward travel to the region over the past decade.

Asia Pacific hosted 342.2 million business and leisure trips last year, up from 159.1 million in 2009. During the same period, travel spend in the region more than doubled from $117.6 billion to $281.1 billion.

Almost half (49.8 percent) of those trips were concentrated in the region’s top 20 cities.

The growth was fueled largely by outbound Chinese travelers, whose numbers have ballooned from 10.5 million in 2009 to 62.4 million in 2018. China now represents the world’s second-largest outbound travel market after the U.S.

Separately, Okinawa, Japan emerged as the region’s fastest-growing travel destination, rising 109 places in the rankings since 2009. The industrial city of Ludhiana in India’s northern state of Punjab was the second fastest-growing, jumping 78 spots in the past decade.

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