With Thailand ranking so so in tourism competitiveness, Bangkok tops the globe as tourism city

OL035U1W6Y_Angkor-Wat-Cambodia-alidarbacThe Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, that Bangkok has emerged as the world’s top tourist destination, with 15.98 million visitors projected to descend in Thailand’s capital city this year, according to the third annual Global Destination Cities Index released by MasterCard.

  • That emergence is remarkable, beating out long-time champ, London. The latest Bangkok ranking comes after earlier ranking that Bangkok is the second best place globally to shop. And a series of other ranking that said Bangkok offer tourist the best “value” for the money.

The Wall Street Journal, in a report of the MasterCard findings, talked to a tourist, Caroline Lledo, who was visiting with her mother from France, said Thailand has many offerings.“We like culture and the people are so nice.  We also love shopping here,” Ms. Lledo said. MasterCard Worldwide’s global economic adviser Yuwa Hedrick-Wong cited overall value for money spent for why Bangkok is attractive. That is true for Thailand overall as well.

The study found that Bangkok is experiencing a large increase in its number of tourists in 2013, up 9.8% from 2009. That compares to New York’s increase at 5.0% and London’s at 3.8%. Paris, meanwhile, saw a small dip in its number of tourists (negative 0.7%).

  • Bangkok is one of the world’s top tourist destination cities. It ranks third in international visitor spending, with 19.3 billion USD projected for 2012, after London and New York.[1] Euromonitor International ranked Bangkok fifth in its Top City Destinations Ranking for 2010.[2] Bangkok has also been named “World’s Best City” by Travel + Leisure magazine’s survey of its readers for three consecutive years since 2010.[3]

As the main gateway through which visitors arrive in Thailand, Bangkok is visited by the majority of international tourists to the country. Domestic tourism is also prominent. The Department of Tourism recorded 26,861,095 Thai and 11,361,808 foreign visitors to Bangkok in 2010. Lodgings were made by 15,031,244 guests, who occupied 49.9 percent of the city’s 86,687 hotel rooms.[4]

Bangkok’s multi-faceted sights, attractions and city life appeal to diverse groups of tourists. Royal palaces and temples as well as several museums constitute its major historical and cultural tourist attractions. Shopping and dining experiences offer a wide range of choices and prices. The city is also famous for its dynamic nightlife. Although Bangkok’s sex tourism scene is well-known, this aspect is usually downplayed by the government.

  • However, Thailand as a country, have ranked in the moderate group, when it comes to “Tourism and Travel Competitiveness.”

How did Bangkok, fresh after years of political turmoil and a devastating flood, recovered so quickly, to take the globe top tourism destination spot?

The World Economic Forum, sees the prospect for ASEAN tourism as significant.

By 2015, ASEAN member countries aim to establish the ASEAN Community (AC), a security, economic, and socio-cultural community of over 600 million people, which will account for nearly 5 percent of world GDP. In its more than four decades of existence, despite some delays and setbacks, progress towards integration has been significant. ASEAN leaders have long recognized the vital role T&T can play in realizing their ambitions.

The potential for developing the T&T sector is enormous. The Southeast Asia region has many assets to lure the visitor. It boasts some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes and attractions, vast ecosystems with stunning wildlife, and rich culture and history. It possesses a long tradition of tourism, and is strategically located in the heart of Asia, the world’s most economically dynamic region. The extraordinary diversity of ASEAN countries, while posing some challenges to integration, further enhances the attractiveness of the region, which offers complementary tourism experiences and appeals to visitors of all types.

  • The T&T sector plays an important role in the overall ASEAN economy. World Economic Forum says, it is estimated to account for 4.6 percent of ASEAN GDP and 10.9 percent when taking into account all indirect contributions. It directly employs 9.3 million people, or 3.2 percent of total employment, and indirectly supports some 25 million jobs. The analysis, however, reveals a very mixed picture in terms of the tourism performances of individual ASEAN countries. Singapore, for example, draws 20 times more tourists per capita and 30 times more receipts per capita than the ASEAN average. Malaysia is one of the world’s top 10 destinations, with about 25 million visitors per year, while the Philippines, despite its much larger population, attracts six times fewer. The Travel and Tourism Competiveness Index (TTCI) sheds some light on the factors underpinning such mixed results.

Performance of ASEAN Countries in the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index 2011

  • The assessment of ASEAN member countries in the TTCI 2011 draws a very mixed picture of the region. Singapore (10th), Malaysia (35th), Thailand (41st), Brunei Darussalam (67th), Indonesia (74th), Vietnam (80th), the Philippines (94th), and Cambodia (109th) span almost the entire range of the 139 economies covered by the TTCI (see Table 2), which continues to be led by Switzerland.7 With only three countries featured in the top 50 of the TTCI, the T&T sector in ASEAN undoubtedly faces a number of challenges

Measuring travel and tourism competitiveness Developed by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with experts from the sector, the TTCI is a comprehensive framework that aims to measure the factors and policies that make it attractive to develop the T&T sector in different countries. It is based on three broad categories of variables that facilitate or drive T&T competitiveness. These categories are summarized in the three subindexes of the Index: (i) the T&T regulatory framework subindex; (ii) the T&T business environment and infrastructure subindex; and (iii) the T&T human, cultural, and natural resources subindex. The first subindex captures those elements that are policy related and generally under the purview of the government; the second subindex captures elements of the business  environment and the “hard” infrastructure of each economy; and the third subindex captures the “softer” human, cultural, and natural elements of each country’s resource endowments.

Each of these three subindexes is composed of a number of “pillars”. There are 14 pillars in total: (1) Policy rules and regulations; (2) Environmental sustainability; (3) Safety and security; (4) Health and hygiene; (5) Prioritization of Travel & Tourism; (6) Air transport infrastructure; (7) Ground transport infrastructure;(8) Tourism infrastructure; (9) ICT infrastructure; (10) Price competitiveness in the T&T industry; (11) Human resources; (12) Affinity for Travel & Tourism ; (13) Natural resources; and (14) Cultural resources

Each of the pillars is, in turn, made up of a number of individual indicators, of which there are 75 in all. The dataset includes both data from the World Economic Forum’s annual Executive Opinion Survey and quantitative data from publicly available sources, international organizations, and T&T institutions and experts. The fourth edition of the TTCI was published in The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2011 and covers a record 139 countries. Switzerland tops the TTCI rankings for the third edition in a row, followed by Germany and France

But even with Thailand’s TTCI ranking in the moderate category, the city of Bangkok has rocketed to the top of the globe. Bangkok has emerged as the world’s top tourist destination, with 15.98 million visitors projected to descend in Thailand’s capital city this year, according to the third annual Global Destination Cities Index released by MasterCard.

The Wall Street Journal says, based on data MasterCard collected from governments, central banks, related public agencies and airlines so far this year, the projection for the entire year says Bangkok is surpassing London, the previous holder of the top place, by a very narrow margin. Master Card Monday’s report marked the first time any Asian city has been projected to be the top-ranked tourist destination. London came in second, with 15.96 million visitors expected in 2013, and Paris, third, with 13.92 million visitors. MasterCard looked at 132 cities.

Other Asian cities that made it to the Top-20 Global Destination Cities in 2013 include Singapore at number four, with 11.75 million visitors; Kuala Lumpur at number eight, with 9.2 million visitors; Hong Kong at number nine, with 8.72 million visitors; Seoul at number 11, with 8.19 million visitors; Shanghai at number 14, with 6.5 million visitors, Tokyo at number 16, with 5.8 million visitors, and Taipei, with 5.19 million visitors.

However, in terms of visitor spending, Bangkok is projected to bring in a total of US$14.3 billion dollars and is ranked at fourth this year, while New York continues to be the top city, where visitors will spend around $18.6 billion dollars in 2013. Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) adviser Suwanchai Ritthirak cited official data in saying that each foreign visitor spends an average of 9.6 days and 4,100 baht (about US$141.50) in the country.  Therefore, to boost Bangkok’s ranking, more needs to be done to increase either or both factor.

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