Asia Pacific travel gears up

SINGAPORE, 27 September 2017: Travel in Asia Pacific is not showing any signs of slowing down, with the region dominating visitor arrivals once again, according to the Mastercard Global Destinations Cities Index 2017, released Tuesday.

The proof is also in the travel spend with Asia Pacific destinations tracking the highest amount of international overnight visitor spend among its top 10 cities. Bringing in USD91.16 billion in travel expenditure in 2016, Asia Pacific outpaced Europe (USD74.74 billion), and North America (USD55.02 billion).

Ranking the world’s 132 top destination cities, the Index studied visitor volume and spend for the 2016 calendar year and provided a forecast for annual growth, insights on the fastest growing destination cities, and a deeper understanding of why people travel and how they spend around the world.

Mastercard Advisors senior vice president, Asia Pacific, Eric Schneider, said: “As the fastest growing region for international tourism, Asia Pacific’s travel sector will no doubt continue to serve as a key source of in-market economic growth and development. The rise of leisure and business travel across the region presents a vital imperative for governments and private stakeholders to invest in smart networks and infrastructures that provide seamless experiences for residents, tourists and business travellers. Cities that do so will realize their potential as true global destinations, and reap the economic benefits of increased visitors and greater spending.”

Asian Destinations take the lead

International overnight visits to the top 10 destination cities were up in 2016. According to the Index, Bangkok topped the chart with 19.41 million visits, while London came in a close second with 19.06 million.

Singapore (13.11 million visits) inched past New York (12.7 million visits) into fifth position for the first time in three years, while Seoul (12.39 million visits) leapfrogged three spots into seventh place.

Home to half of the world’s top 10 most visited cities, Asia Pacific’s success is driven by strong intra-regional travel. Both Singapore and Seoul tracked significant growths, aided by visits from neighboring countries, particularly China. In the index’s seven-year history, China is now the main driver of growth for all Asia Pacific’s top destinations.

Overall, forecasts for continued growth in 2017 are positive except for New York, with Tokyo expecting the largest boom.

Globally, international overnight visits and spend in the 132 destinations have grown by 55.2% and 41.1% respectively since 2009, significantly outpacing real GDP growth during the same period. More than half of the top destination cities reported an increase in spend consistent with or greater than GDP increases between 2009 and 2016, and are primed to be engines of broad economic growth for countries.

The difference between the Global Top 10 destinations by arrivals and the Top 10 fastest growing destinations continues to demonstrate the increasing importance of watching Asia Pacific and the Middle East and Africa develop into future destination leaders.

Osaka leads as the fastest growing city at 24%, fuelled by strong growth in visits from within and outside the region including the United States, China, Malaysia and South Korea. In addition, Jakarta and Hanoi’s entrance into the list of top 10 fastest growing cities point to Southeast Asia’s rising significance as a key travel hub.

Across the top 20 destination cities, leisure was the main purpose for the majority of travel. Kuala Lumpur led the pack, with 92.2% visits on vacation. Conversely, nearly half (48.4%) of Shanghai’s visits were business related.

Looking closer at the top 10 destination cities, expenditure categories identified in the index illustrate how people spend during a trip: Istanbul stands out as the only city with the greatest percentage of dining spend (33.6%)

People spend th most on shopping in Seoul (56.5%), followed by London (46.7%), Tokyo (43.1%), Kuala Lumpur (31.3%) and Dubai (31.0%)

Travelers can expect lodging to be the lion’s share of expenditure when visiting Paris (44.8%) and New York (31.8%)

With efficient transport systems in place, less budget is spent on transfers in London (4.3%), Singapore (4.6%), and Tokyo (6.9%)