Students from Princess of Naradhiwas University wear colourful costumes during the annual parade on Wednesday. AFP
Bangkok ranked first in 2018 for the fourth straight year as the city with the most international visitors, according to an annual report by Mastercard released Wednesday.
With almost 23 million international visitors last year, the Thai capital outpaced both Paris and London, which were second and third with just over 19 million visitors.
Other top cities in order were: Dubai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, New York, Istanbul, Tokyo and Antalya, Turkey.
The report pointed to broad increases in international travel, with the total number of international visits up 76 per cent since 2009.
Nine of the top 10 cities saw increases in 2018 compared with the prior year. London was the exception, with a drop of four per cent.
Dubai topped the list in consumption, with travellers spending an average of $553 per day and visitors spending a total of nearly $31 billion. Makkah, Saudi Arabia and Bangkok were second and third as far as spending.
Established in 2011, the Global Destination Cities ranks 200 cities based on visitor arrivals and cross-border spending.
Despite Bangkok's longtime reign atop the list, the Thai tourism industry has faced headwinds, with arrivals dropping 1.03% year-on-year in May before recovering to grow 0.89% in June from a year earlier.
Tourism accounts for about 12% of Thailand's economy.
A general view of agricultural land is seen through the window of an airplane of EgyptAir after the rain, over Bangkok on Wednesday. Reuters
However, weaker Chinese economic growth and a boat accident last year led to a drop off in Chinese arrivals in Thailand in the first half of this year.
The downturn in the number of visitors from China was partially offset by Indian arrivals.
Thailand expects to welcome 2 million Indian tourists in 2019, the governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Yuthasak Supasorn, told Reuters, adding this was one year earlier than its target.
In August, the government extended a waiver of a 2,000 baht ($65) fee for visa-on-arrivals for tourists from 18 countries including those from China and India.
A growing middle class and increasing wealth in populations and the rise of low-cost airlines will make travel more accessible, Minor Hotels Chief Executive, Dilip Rajakrier, said in an email.
"Given only less than 10% of the China's total population having passports today. The potential of the Chinese market will never fade," he said.
Hotels on Thailand's most popular holiday island have been forced to slash prices with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as tourist chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht.
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