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Asia-Pacific cities rank among world’s most connected destinations

Asia-Pacific cities continued their ascendance as global destinations in 2012, with nearly half of the world’s top 20 cities by visitor arrivals and expenditure heralding from the region, according to the MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index released on Monday.

This is the second installment of the MasterCard research, which is used as a barometer for understanding the global economy and the dynamic flow of commerce across the world. The MasterCard Index of Global Destination Cities ranks cities in terms of the number of their total international visitor arrivals and the cross-border spending by these same visitors in the destination cities, and gives visitor and passenger growth forecasts for 2012. This Index and the accompanying reports are not based on MasterCard volumes or transactional data.

The Index projects sustained growth among emerging market cities with the top ten Asia-Pacific destinations expecting a 9.5 percent growth in visitor arrivals for 2012 and a 15.3 percent surge in cross-border spending. Singapore (4th), Hong Kong (6th) and Kuala Lumpur (10th) feature in the Index’s top ten global cities.

Cities in Asia-Pacific once again led the charge globally with 8 of the top 20 cities by international arrivals, with Bangkok ranked third globally with projected visitors to top 12.2 million visitors this year. Singapore was in fourth rank with 11.8 million visitors, with Hong Kong sixth with 11.1 million visitors, and Kuala Lumpur ranked 10th with 8.1 million visitors expected.

The region also ranked highly on visitor spending with Bangkok ranked third globally with USD19.3 billion expected to be spent by inbound passengers in 2012, a 16.6 percent jump from last year. Singapore leapt two places to fifth overall with USD12.7b, up 12.7 percent on last year. Seoul moved into the top ten with USD10.6b in cross-border spend, an increase of 16.2 percent, while Tokyo, still recovering from the triple disasters of 2011 moved up four places to 14th, is officially the world’s third fastest growing market (24.2 percent) in terms of cross-border spending.

In terms of growth in visitor numbers 6 out of the top 20 fastest growing cities in the Index were from Asia-Pacific with Tokyo second globally behind Rio de Janeiro (28.6 percent) with a 21.5 percent growth in visitor arrivals.

Taipei and Beijing also featured in both the top ten growth cities by visitor arrivals and cross-border spending.
"Asia’s destination cities continue their rise, expecting a significant upward trend in visitor arrivals and cross-border spends – most of them on the back of large double digit growth," observed Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, global economic advisor, MasterCard Worldwide.

London once again topped the world’s cities by visitor numbers with 16.9 million inbound passengers expected in 2012, ahead of Paris in second place with 16 million inbound passengers expected.

London also ranked first on cross-border expenditure, ahead of New York in second place, with estimated expenditures in these cities for 2012 amounting to USD21.1b and USD19.4b respectively.

While cities in Europe and the US still ranked highly in the MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index, Hedrick-Wong said that the number of emerging market cities featuring in the Index showed Asia’s growing role in the global economy.

"The leading Asian cities are some of the most sought after destinations for visitors from all over the world, and the Index indicates that they will continue to thrive into 2012," he said.

"Another interesting trend that we observe is a rise in cashless payments with many international travellers opting to do electronic transactions rather than using cash. The trend is a response to an increasing demand for safe, simple and smart payments, and highlights the rising importance of cashless commerce for both business and leisure travel," Wong concluded.