Grand Palace

Do you remember how a few years ago it was popular to fly to London or New York for a long weekend? That might still be the case for some, but others venture out further and further. With all the inexpensive flight connections, and proximity to China and Japan, Bangkok is not as far as it used to be.

The MasterCard Index of Global Destination Cities reflects the number of expected international air-travel arrivals and the visitors’ spending in each city. The Thai capital ranked number 1 for the year 2013, leaving behind London (by a narrow margin), Paris, Singapore and New York, when it comes to projected visits. Bangkok is predicted to experience a growth of 9.8% in this year’s foreign arrivals. Istanbul and Dubai are rising quickly too on MasterCard’s Index, which was masterminded by Dr. Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, Adjunct Professor at the Sauder School of Business. If all the cities included in the ranking continue to grow as predicted, by 2016 Istanbul will be ranked number 3 and Dubai number 5, while Bangkok will retain pole position.

Can you sense the limelight shifting away from Europe and North America? Any economist, or just a flick through the newspapers as a matter of fact, can tell you that Asia is ascending the curve of financial success and power. When walking through Bangkok’s lavish shopping malls, you certainly feel that London has lost its retail prestige. Not to mention the booming development sites all across the city.

Hollywood sensed the shifting spotlight long before The MasterCard Index was first released. Numerous movies were shot in Bangkok or the surrounding areas, either depicting Thailand or any other Asian (or even non-Asian) destination. Legendary films The Deer Hunter, In the Mood for Love, The Killing Fields, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Good Morning Vietnam, Rambo II and IV, Star Wars III (to name just a few) were all filmed in or around Bangkok. Far from legendary, but the highest grossing R(restricted)-rated comedy of all time, 2011 box-office smash Hangover II, was set and filmed in Bangkok..

The world has become a global village, which saddens some and brings joy to others. But, standing proud of the jostling competition, Bangkok has emerged a winner.