BANGKOK remains the world’s most visited city, welcoming 20 million overseas travelers last year.
The Thai capital is a hub of culture and history, and a major player in Southeast Asia’s party scene.
It’s also a remarkably cheap destination to stay in and according to Mastercard’s 2018 Global Destination Index, travelers typically stay an average of 4.7 nights.
The index also predicted that Bangkok won’t be bested for some time as the city has a predicted visitor growth of 9.6 percent for 2018.
But Bangkok isn’t up there alone in representing Asia. A total of 12 Asian destinations made it onto the world’s 20 most visited cities list.
Perhaps most intriguing are the newcomers with Phuket, Thailand debuting at number 12 and Mecca, Saudi Arabia at number 13.
Saudi Arabia only recently started issuing tourist visas again after it clamped down on foreign visitors in 2010.
The oil-rich nation is trying to move away from its dependency on natural resources and pushing to build an economy aided by a strong tourism industry.
However, its impressive ranking is mostly down to travelers participating in Hajj, the holiest Islamic pilgrimage.
Phuket has always been a popular tourist destination and reports from the beginning of the year stated the destination was experiencing an 11.3 percent year-on-year growth.
However, a boating tragedy in Phuket earlier this year killed 47 Chinese tourists and caused a rapid decline in visitor numbers to the southern Thai island.
The cancellations of hotel bookings and lack of tourist spending caused a loss of THB42 billion (US$1.3 billion) to the economy.
However, the government has since implemented stringent safety rules regarding tourist activities and hopes to rebuild tourism in the area and boost tourists’ confidence leading into 2019.
“International travel is crucial to many urban economies, enriching the lives of both residents and tourists,” Mastercard global cities executive vice president Miguel Gamiño Jr said in a statement.
“The bar is rising for cities to innovate to provide both a memorable and authentic experience.”
And according to Mastercard’s list, Asia seems to be doing a sterling job of creating these authentic and unforgettable experiences.
But you can see for yourself as we give you the full rundown of the world’s most visited cities.
Bangkok, Thailand: 20.05 million
London, UK: 19.83 million
Paris, France: 17.44 million
Dubai, UAE: 15.79 million
Singapore: 13.91 million
New York, US: 13.13 million
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: 2.58 million
Tokyo, Japan: 11.93 million
Istanbul, Turkey: 10.7 million
Seoul, South Korea: 9.54 million
Antalya, Turkey: 9.42 million
Phuket, Thailand: 9.29 million
Mecca, Saudi Arabia: 9.18 million
Hong Kong, China: 9.03 million
Milan, Italy: 8.81 million
Palma de Mallorca, Spain: 8.78 million
Barcelona, Spain: 8.69 million
Pattaya, Thailand: 8.67 million
Osaka, Japan: 8.42 million
Bali, Indonesia: 8.3 million
The once hugely popular cities such as Beijng, China and Rome, Italy, which previously featured on Mastercard’s list have been ousted by rival cities such as Milan and Hong Kong.
This is spurred on by travelers wanting more authentic experiences and steering clear of the typical tourist sites.
This traveling trend reveals lesser-known destinations to those seeking a memorable trip and in turn boosts the local economy in the destination.
It also gives the places which have suffered decades of overtourism a chance to recover and build a more suitable tourism infrastructure.