Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index 2018: Half Of Top 10 Destinations In Index Are Asia Pacific Cities

September 25, 2018 | Singapore | By Barkha Patel

Mastercard brings together tourism and city partners to improve experiences for visitors

In a world of rising nationalism, international travel takes on greater importance—breaking down barriers, broadening our horizons and driving economic impact felt throughout the world’s cities. For the past decade, Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities Index has offered important analysis of travel to and within cities. Asia Pacific destinations continue to feature highly in this year’s Index, with five Asia Pacific cities – Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo and Seoul – making up half of the top 10 destinations.

The Mastercard Index, which was expanded this year to look at 162 cities, is not simply a ranking of the top travel destinations. Based on visitor volume and spend for the 2017 calendar year, the in-depth analysis also provides a growth forecast for 2018 and — for the first time — a view into average lengths of stay and amounts spent per day.

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. The forecast for 2018 indicates across-the-board growth, with Bangkok (9.6 percent) expecting the largest visitor uptick in Asia.

Bangkok Remains Top Destination in Asia Pacific
With roughly 20 million international overnight visitors in 2017, Bangkok remains in the top spot this year. Visitors tend to stay in Bangkok 4.7 nights and spend $173 per day, on average.

The Global Top 10 Destination Cities – Asia

Global Rank Asian Destinations 2017 International Overnight Visitors Growth Forecast for 2018 Average Length of Stay Average Spend Per Day
1 Bangkok 20.05 million 9.6% 4.7 nights $173
5 Singapore 13.91 million 4.0% 4.3 nights $286
7 Kuala Lumpur 12.58 million 7.5% 5.5 nights $124
8 Tokyo 11.93 million 1.6% 6.5 nights $154
10 Seoul 9.54 million 6.1% 4.2 nights $181

Asia Pacific Continues to be Popular with Chinese Tourists
Tourists from China continue to top the list of origin countries for travel to Asia Pacific. Southeast Asian cities, such as Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Phuket, Pattaya, and Bali are fast becoming must-visit destinations for Chinese tourists.  Phuket is the most popular destination for Chinese tourists, with a growth rate of 56.1 percent in the last eight years (2009 – 2017, CAGR basis).

Asian Destinations Percentage share of arrivals from China
Bangkok 34.3%
Singapore 18.4%
Kuala Lumpur 16.8%
Tokyo 19.8%
Seoul 31.1%
Phuket 28.8%
Pattaya 31.3%
Bali 24.3%

Tourist Spend in Southeast Asia Highest Across Asia Pacific
As one of the fastest growing tourism regions in the world, Southeast Asia attracted some of the highest spending visitors. The top three Southeast Asian destinations within the Global Top 10 by Expenditure – Singapore, Bangkok and Phuket – captured US$43.85 billion of total expenditure by international overnight tourists. Singapore, a renowned shopper’s destination in Asia Pacific, retained its lead as the top city in terms of visitor expenditure, attracting the highest spending visitors at US$286 per day.

Newcomer to the Index, Phuket, Thailand, debuted straight in the Top 10 destinations list, with an average daily spend of US$239, the second highest in the sub-region.

Top Cities by Dollars Spent – Asia

Global Rank Asian Destinations 2017 International Overnight Visitor Spend (USD) Forecast for 2018 Average Spend by Day
4 Singapore $17.02 billion 7.4% $286
5 Bangkok $16.36 billion 13.8% $173
9 Tokyo $11.91 billion 7.76% $154
10 Phuket $10.46 billion 12.6% $239

Insights into Local Spend
The Index has identified expenditure categories that illustrate how people are spending when they visit the Top Asian destination cities:

    • Across the Asia Pacific region, visitors to Bali spent the highest percentage of their total expenditure on accommodation (44.6 percent) and the least on shopping (13.4 percent).
    • Visitors to Hong Kong (22.2 percent) and Osaka (22.4 percent) spent the most on food, whereas visitors to Singapore spent the least on dining (12.9 percent).
    • People spent the most on shopping when visiting Osaka (43.4 percent), Tokyo (43.1 percent), and Seoul (47.4 percent).

Japanese Cities Are Growing the Fastest
Underscoring the importance of a robust infrastructure, leisure attractions and strong local culture, Japanese cities Okinawa (39.2 percent), Kyoto (27.8 percent), and Osaka (23.6 percent) are the fastest growing destination cities in Asia Pacific over the last eight years (2009 – 2017, CAGR basis).

Whether people visit cities for business or leisure, Mastercard works with a broad range of partners, including tourism bodies, urban planners, banks and merchants to:

    • Identify and address urban challenges through scalable solutions in digital inclusion and economic development; Mastercard recently launched City Possible, a global platform for cities, research institutions and private sector organizations to address common challenges through collaboration.
    • Simplify access to key urban services such as public transportation; in over 100 cities (and growing), visitors and locals can use the contactless Mastercard they already carry to access trains and buses.
    • Help people traverse the globe with peace of mind, providing seamless planning, conveniences and connectivity at their destination and worry-free acceptance at millions of locations around the globe.
    • Create unique experiences across food, entertainment and shopping in 42 Priceless Cities around the globe, including Bangkok, London, Paris and many others throughout the Index.


About the Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index
The Mastercard Index of Global Destination Cities ranks cities in terms of the number of their total international overnight visitor arrivals and the cross-border spending by these same visitors in the destination cities in 2017, and gives international overnight visitor growth forecasts for 2018.

Public data is used in deriving the international overnight visitor arrivals and their cross-border spending in each of the 162 destination cities.
Forecasts are based upon the weighted average of the national level tourism forecasts and the actual 2018 monthly data at the destination level, which is available to the latest month before release.

This Index and the accompanying reports are not based on Mastercard volumes or transactional data.

About Mastercard
Mastercard (NYSE: MA),, is a technology company in the global payments industry.  Our global payments processing network connects consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. Mastercard products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone.  Follow us on Twitter @ MastercardAP, join the discussion on the Beyond the Transaction Blog and subscribe for the latest news on the Engagement Bureau.

Mastercard Communications Contact
Barkha Patel, +65 6390 6012

Agency Communications Contact
Pallavi Misra, +65 6825 8016


Barkha Patel, Vice President, Communications, International Markets (IMK), Mastercard