Lonely Planet Writer

Bangkok has surpassed London as the top international travel destination for 2016

Bangkok has beaten London as the top travel destination for 2016, according to the annual MasterCard global destinations cities index.

Wat Arun temple across Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, Thailand.
Wat Arun temple across Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, Thailand. Image by ©Jirawat Plekhongthu/500px

The index looks at 132 of the most visited cities around the world and ranks them based on the projected volume of international overnight visitors for the year. The Thai capital is expected to receive 21.47 million international overnight visitors this year, pushing ahead of London, which had been the top city in the index for five of the previous seven years.

London aerial view with Tower Bridge at sunset.
London aerial view with Tower Bridge at sunset. Image by Iakov Kalinin

But London does remain close behind, and is expected to receive 19.88 million visitors, followed by Paris (18.03 million), Dubai (15.27 million), New York (12.75 million), Singapore (12.11 million), Kuala Lumpur (12.02 million), Istanbul (11.95 million), Tokyo (11.70 million), and Seoul (10.20 million).

View on Paris form Notre Dame cathedral.
View on Paris form Notre Dame cathedral. Image by ©S.Borisov/Shutterstock

While those cities may be the most popular places for travellers to stay, visitors are spending more money in Dubai than anywhere else. The index ranks Dubai first based on international visitor spending. The expectation is that USD$31.3 billion will be spend there by travellers, far exceeding that of the second-place city London at an estimated USD$19.8 billion.

Skyscraper buildings on waterfront in Dubai.
Skyscraper buildings on waterfront in Dubai. Image by ©Andrew Mongomery/Lonely Planet

While the top ten is filled with popular spots for both business and leisure travellers, many cities around the world are seeing rapidly increasing visitor numbers – a lot of which are located in Asia Pacific and the Middle East.

Lower Manhattan skyline at sunset.
Lower Manhattan skyline at sunset. Image by 500px

Osaka, Japan, has seen the highest growth in visitors over the last seven years at 24.15%, followed by: Chengdu, China; Abu Dhabi, UAE; Colombo, Sri Lanka; Tokyo, Japan; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Taipei, Taiwan; Xi’an, China; Tehran, Iran; and Xiamen, China.