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Bangkok will be the world’s most visited city in 2013, according to the latest data from MasterCard.

Releasing the results of its third annual Global Destination Cities Index, MasterCard revealed that the Thai capital is expected to receive 15.98 million international visitors last year – slightly more than second placed London, which will welcome 15.96m visitors.

Paris was third with 13.92m visitors, Singapore fourth with 11.75m and New York fifth with 11.52m. Istanbul, in sixth place with 10.37, is the only other city expected to receive more than 10m international visitors in 2013.

MasterCard noted that Bangkok’s climb to the top of the global tourism rankings coincided with a broader rise in the popularity of Asian cities. Kuala Lumpur (eighth, 9.20m) and Hong Kong (ninth 8.72m) also made the top 10m, while Seoul (11th, 8.19m), Shanghai (14th, 6.50m), Tokyo (16th 5.80m) and Taipei (18th, 5.19m) ensured that Asia contributed nine of world’s 20 most visited cities in 2013.

“Bangkok brought with it great momentum from last year.  Its ascent to number one is not only a first for Asia, it’s emblematic of the rise of the ‘global south’ which encompasses much of Africa and Asia as well as South America,” concluded Dr Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, global economic advisor to MasterCard and author of the report.

A key reason for the rise of Asian cities is the region’s increased air connectivity. Measuring the growth of air connectivity between 2009 and 2013, MasterCard noted that seven of the 10 fastest-growing cities were in East Asia, including Singapore, Seoul and Bangkok.

But Asian cities still have some way to go to catch up with the West in terms of visitor spending levels. New York topped the global list in terms of visitor spending in 2013, generating revenues of US$18.6 billion, ahead of London (US$16.3bn) and Paris (US$14.6bn). Bangkok (US$14.6bn) was fourth and Singapore (US$13.5bn) fifth.