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05 June 2013

The Most Visited City in the World Is Not Paris or London

Apparently the most visited city in the world for 2013 (how they can calculate this only 5 months into the year is beyond me) is not something most people would expect.

Instead of classic and perennially popular destinations such as New York, Paris, or London, this year's winner is on the opposite side of the world.

This year's winner is Bangkok.

It's somewhat hard to believe, and I'm somewhat skeptical of this ranking for several reasons:
  • These kinds of rankings are often made for marketing purposes. 
  • There's always a way to find data to "shake up" the established rankings. I see this all the time with university/college rankings, in which different lists will weight criteria differently so that the same university isn't on top of the rankings year after year.
  • The data for this particular list, compiled by Mastercard, is "based on public data such as flight schedules and capacity." That sounds like it's just a list of which cities have the most visitors flying into its airport! No wonder Bangkok comes in ahead; it's a popular hub for the region (and beyond). I imagine a sizable proportion of the people in this ranking are merely connecting flights in Bangkok, traveling between Europe and Australia. Surely there should be some weight given to people staying in a city for more than just a few hours.
    • And otherwise, Mastercard could have just estimated tourism spending from it's own set of credit card data, right?
    • Also, how can you count visitors to cities/countries in Europe, where it's common to fly into one country, train around to several other countries, and then fly out somewhere else?
I mean, come on! Thailand isn't even on the list of the world's most visited countries.

Nevertheless, even though I haven't been to Thailand (yet), I don't doubt that it's starving for tourists. In the last few months, as I have been moving around Germany and the Netherlands, I have met many people who were just about to leave for (or just returned from) a holiday overseas. And every single one of them was visiting not just SE Asia, but specifically Thailand.

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