The Central Embassy mall in Bangkok, the flagship property of Central Group.

EASTERN ADVANTAGES: Seven cities in Asia dominated GlobalData’s 2017 “Tapping Into the Luxury Travel Market” report highlighting the cities with the most international tourists.

For the third consecutive year, Bangkok remained the leading international tourist destination globally with 20.8 million visitors last year. In addition to Bangkok, Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur and Shenzhen were also among the most popular destinations. Tourists from Europe and China helped to make that happen. The depreciation of some Asian currencies — excluding the Chinese yuan — was a key factor in the appeal of Asian cities, according to GlobalData’s analysis.

London locked up the second-place slot with 20.4 million international visitors, some of whom were motivated to make the trip due to the British Pound’s weakened state spurred by the Brexit referendum. Singapore with 17.4 million international visitors, Dubai with 15.8 million and Hong Kong with 14 million ranked third through fifth, respectively. Tokyo with 13.8 million, New York with 13.1 million, Seoul with 13.07 million, Kuala Lumpur with 12.1 million and Shenzhen with 12.07 million rounded out the second-half of the list. People in Indonesia, Turkey, Singapore, Mexico and India are saving up the most for vacations, according to GlobalData.

Thailand’s appeal was enhanced by its tourism-friendly visa policies, promotional efforts and low-cost connectivity. Asia’s airline carrier market now outpaces Europe’s, based on annual departing seats, according to the Airline Network News and Analysis. AirAsia, Jetstar Asia and Peach are among the low-cost airlines ferrying passengers around Asia.

Asian cities are expected to continue to lead the Top 10 list, thanks to such factors as the implementation of single visa by the respective governments of Association of Southeast Asian Nations member-states, the strength of low-cost carriers and enhancement of highways and railways in Asia, the GlobalData report.

GlobalData’s analysis also notes how luxury travel is no longer defined by flying private or secluded five-star accommodations, as more travelers seek more meaningful experiences. And upper middle class, high-net and ultra-high net worth individuals aren’t the only ones heading overseas, Millennials are an integral component.

Regardless of demographics, this year’s key travel trends are authenticity, health and wellness, responsible and adventure travel, according to GlobalData. Customization is also gaining ground in the sector, as is technology as a means in reeling in younger, luxury travelers. Some investors in Thailand are pursuing what is known as “the happiness industry,” which includes tourism, culture, fashion, entertainment, films, TV and health. The most well-known, Thai-born designer is  Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana, who created the Sirivannavari Bangkok label. She recently became the first member of the royal family to be honored for her work in the arts. She was one of the seven mid-career artists to win a Silpathorn Award from the Culture Ministry’s Office of Contemporary Art and Culture.

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