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This Is the World’s Most Popular City for Travelers

By Katherine LaGrave

09.04.19

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Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan, or Wat Arun, is one of the most popular landmarks in Bangkok.

Photo by Virojt Changyencham/Shutterstock

Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan, or Wat Arun, is one of the most popular landmarks in Bangkok.

A new report from financial services company Mastercard highlights some of the world’s top destinations.

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Paris and London may have jambon-beurre and double-decker buses, respectively, but Bangkok has more tourists: For the fourth year in a row, the Thai capital tops Mastercard’s annual Global Destination Cities Index, which ranks 200 cities on overnight visitors.

In 2018, the city saw 22.78 million international visitors, the majority of them from China, Japan, South Korea, India, and the United Kingdom. That Bangkok is a top draw is hardly surprising: Its famous attractions include its Grand Palace, temples like Wat Mahathat Yuwaratrangsarit, and street food on Khao San Road. And as Tom Downey wrote for AFAR in 2017, no matter if you visit once or once every few months, Bangkok has discoveries at every bend:

“Even though I’m in a city I know well, having visited many times, I’ve found myself somewhere new. I’m nestled in the heart of a dense, bustling market where shoppers eye slabs of pork and vats of pickled greens, chat with vendors, bow toward the temple, and live the vibrant life of this inner city. For me it’s a revelatory experience of enormous, immersive pleasure.”

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Paris and London took second and third place on the list of popular cities, with more than 19 million visitors each, and Dubai (15.93 million) and Singapore (14.67 million) rounded out the top five. Only one U.S. city, New York, made the list of the top 20 most popular cities by overnight visitors, ringing in at number seven. Cities in the Asia-Pacific region dominate much of the list, in large part because of the growth of travelers from mainland China, according to the report. 

The index, which has been produced by Mastercard since 2009, doesn’t only track overnight visitors—it looks at how much they spend in a destination, too. For 2018, international overnight visitors spent the most money in Dubai, averaging $553 per day, for a total of $30.82 billion. In Bangkok? Travelers spent just $184. 

Here, a list of the world’s most popular cities by overnight visitors:

  1. Bangkok, Thailand: 22.78 million
  2. Paris, France: 19.10 million
  3. London, U.K.: 19.09 million
  4. Dubai, U.A.E.: 15.93 million
  5. Singapore: 14.67 million
  6. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: 13.79 million
  7. New York City: 13.60 million
  8. Istanbul, Turkey: 13.40 million
  9. Tokyo, Japan: 12.93 million
  10. Antalya, Turkey: 12.41 million

>> Next: How (and Where) to Get off the Beaten Path in Bangkok

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