MasterCard creates an index for Asian tourism

Originally published in the Korea JoongAng Daily.

MasterCard released a new Asia-Pacific Destinations Index this year, looking at the region’s tourism trends.

The card company has released a Global Destinations City Index annually but chose to look deeper into the Asia-Pacific as the region continues to dominate the rest of world in tourism. Last year, eight of the top 20 most visited cities worldwide were in Asia.

Seoul was the sixth most visited destination in the region, seeing 9.2 million international arrivals last year.

The Korean capital ranked second for total expenditure by international tourists, a sum of $14.4 billion. On average, a day in Seoul costs a traveler $258, the third highest amount following Shanghai ($269) and Beijing ($262).

Jeju Island took 19th place for highest tourist expenditure total, which is notable since most of the top 20 list is made up of cities.

Digital travel company Web in Travel has taken note of Korea’s increasing prominence as destination and will bring its “Reboot” conference to Seoul for the first time this March. The conference discusses how travel industry professionals can take advantage of technology in their work.

“South Korea is undergoing a massive transformation in terms of how technology is changing customer behavior,” said Web in Travel Managing Director Yeoh Siew Hoon. “At the event, overseas speakers will talk about the latest global trends, what’s happening in the online travel space as well as implications for Korean travel companies. Local experts will share in-market insights, opportunities, and strategies they are pursuing.”

Thailand dominated the MasterCard report, claiming three top 10 spots based on international arrivals. Bangkok ranked first, Phuket fifth and Pattaya came in eighth.

Overall, 21.9 million international tourists passed through Bangkok last year, almost double the amount of Singapore, which came in second place with 11.8 million. Bangkok also took the top spot for total amount spent by international tourists, $15.2 billion.

“What’s ultimately driving Thailand is the Chinese,” said Matthew Driver, MasterCard’s Asia-Pacific group executive for products and solutions.

It’s a similar story in South Korea, where Chinese tourists continue to boost the tourism market, despite a slight decrease in visitors last year due to the outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome.

The tourism industry is vital for the Asia-Pacific region, accounting for 9.3 percent of the region’s GDP in 2015.

Image credit: MasterCard

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