INTERNATIONAL. Mastercard’s 2018 Global Destination Cities Index has ranked Bangkok first for overnight visitor stays for the third consecutive year while another four in Asia Pacific – Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo and Seoul – give the region half of the top ten global destinations.

The expanded index, covering 162 cities, goes further than ranking the top travel destinations. Based on visitor volume and spend for the 2017 calendar year, it offers in-depth analysis and also provides a growth forecast for 2018 and – for the first time – a view into average length of stay and amount spent per day.

Mastercard said: “With the global economy buzzing, the annual growth of international overnight visitors to the top 10 destination cities was up in 2017 except for Seoul, which saw a dip, from seventh to tenth place.”

Five Asian cities are in the global top 10.

The forecast for 2018 points to across-the-board growth in visitors, with Bangkok (+9.6%) expecting the largest uptick. Bangkok is already the top city with roughly 20 million international overnight visitors in 2017. Travellers tend to stay in Bangkok for 4.7 nights and spend US$173 per day, on average.

Other key findings were as follows:

Asia Pacific remains popular with the Chinese – Tourists from China continue to top the list of origin countries for travel to Asia Pacific. Phuket in Thailand is the most popular destination for Chinese tourists, with a high CAGR growth rate of +56.1% in the past eight years (2009-2017), according to Mastercard.

Tourist spending in Southeast Asia highest in the region – The top three Southeast Asian destinations in the top 10 by expenditure – Singapore, Bangkok and Phuket – captured US$43.85 billion of the total expenditure by international overnight tourists.

Japanese cities growing the fastest in Asia Pacific – Okinawa, Kyoto and Osaka are the fastest growing destination cities in the region, with CAGRs of +39.2%, +27.8% and +23.6% (2009– 2017).

The Chinese dominate travel to Bangkok and Seoul, and a number of tourism hotspots such as Pattaya and Phuket.

Insights into local spending

The Mastercard index now identifies expenditure categories that illustrate how people are spending when they visit top destination cities.

Across the Asia Pacific region, visitors spending the highest proportion of their total expenditure on shopping went to Osaka (43.4%), Tokyo (43.1%), and Seoul (47.4%). Visitors to Bali spent the highest percentage of their total expenditure on accommodation (44.6%) and the least on shopping (13.4%). Meanwhile spending the most on food were visitors to Hong Kong (22.2%) and Osaka (22.4%) whereas visitors to Singapore spent the least on dining (12.9%).

For spending overall, Southeast Asia attracted the highest-spenders led by Singapore. The city state is a renowned shopping destination in Asia Pacific and retained its lead for visitor expenditure, attracting US$286 per day on average. Newcomer to the Index, Phuket, went straight into the top ten destinations list, with an average daily spend of US$239, the second highest in the sub-region.

Singapore and Phuket lead Asia for the highest daily spends.