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AEC will boost visitors to region

London ranked top; Myanmar attractive

The Asean Economic Community (AEC) will boost the number of international visitors to member countries, said Matthew Driver, MasterCard president for Southeast Asia.

"All of the countries in Asean will benefit from the community for international visitors, both for travel and business," he said in an interview after a press conference in Singapore to announce the 2014 MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index on Wednesday.

He said Myanmar was an attractive country for tourists and visiting businesspeople. Meanwhile Bangkok is still the centre of this region but drops in the index ranking to second place after the recent political turmoil.

According to the index, London will be the world's top-ranked destination this year with an estimated 18.69 million international visitors, followed by Bangkok with 16.42 million. Ranked third is Paris with about 15.57 million.

Fourth is Singapore with a forecast 12.47 million international visitors, followed by Dubai with 11.95 million, New York with 11.81 million, Istanbul with 11.60 million, Kuala Lumpur with 10.81 million, and Hong Kong with 8.84 million.

Seoul is expected to welcome 8.63 million visitors this year, followed by Barcelona with 7.37 million, Amsterdam 7.23 million, Milan 6.82 million, Rome 6.79 million, Taipei 6.29 million, Shanghai 6.09 million, Vienna 6.05 million, Riyadh 5.59 million, Tokyo 5.38 million, and Lima 5.11 million.

The index also forecasts visitors' spending in the top 20 destination cities in 2014. London will see the highest spending at US$19.27 billion (Bt620 billion), followed by New York with $18.57 billion, Paris with $17.02 billion, and Singapore with $14.34 billion.

Bangkok will rake in $13.04 billion, Seoul $11.51 billion, Barcelona $11.25 billion, Dubai $10.95 billion, Taipei $10.81 billion, Istanbul $9.38 billion, Hong Kong $8.28 billion, Kuala Lumpur $8.08 billion, Los Angeles $7.84 billion, Tokyo $7.37 billion, Miami $6.62 billion, Madrid $6.26 billion, Sydney $6.03 billion, Rome $5.65 billion, San Francisco $5.64 billion, and Munich $5.58 billion.

Three of the top 20 destination cities are in Asean countries, including Bangkok (16.42 million visitors), Singapore (12.47 million) and Kuala Lumpur (10.81 million). The combined number of international visitors to these three cities is projected at 50.51 million, spending a total of $35.46 billion.

After the AEC becomes effective next year, member states are expected to develop their intra-regional transport links, which should also encourage more international visitors to Southeast Asia, Driver said.

However, he declined to say which country would be the rising star in this region because the 10 countries in AEC differ widely in terms of culture, environment, and other features.


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