People are packing their bags and heading to Thailand. The country’s capital — Bangkok — is now the most visited city in the world by international tourists, according to the third annual Global Destination Cities Index released by MasterCard. Bangkok beat London, last year’s No. 1 tourist destination, by less than 1%.
Part of the reason for Bangkok’s increase in visitors is that tourism in Southeast Asia has surged among the region’s upper-middle class, according to the Atlantic. Of the 12 cities with the fastest increase in air-travel connectivity — measured in terms of the scope of the city’s connections with other cities by air travel and the number of flights for each connection — 11 of them are “located east and south of Istanbul,” which as the Atlantic points out, reflects the growing wealth of Asia and its importance as a business destination.
Bangkok’s rise to the top spot, with 15.98 million visitors projected for 2013, is the first time for an Asian city since the Global Destinations Cities Index launched in 2010. London is expected to have 15.96 million visitors in 2013, and Paris, in third, is forecasted to have 13.92 million.
While Bangkok claims the title of most visited city, halfway around the world in New York City, foreign visitors are shelling out more money than in any of the other 132 cities surveyed, despite expecting 4.46 million fewer tourists. Visitors to the Big Apple are expected to spend roughly $18.6 billion in 2013 — that’s a whole lot of “I ♥ NY” T-shirts.
Meanwhile, Tokyo remains the world’s most expensive city, as measured by total spending per tourist, with the average visitor spending nearly $2,200, according to the Atlantic. Just imagine how many trips to Bangkok you could take with that much money.