The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) recently released data on the most visited cities in Southeast Asia. Not surprising is the fact that Bangkok is the most visited city in the region, welcoming in 2013 over 16.8 million foreign travellers in commercial accommodation. Despite a drop in total arrivals in 2014, Bangkok still recorded some 15.5 million international visitors last year.
It was followed in 2014 by Singapore with just 15 million international visitors and Kuala Lumpur with almost 10 million international travellers in commercial accommodation. Ho Chi Minh City, Penang and Hanoi were also destinations welcoming over three million international travellers.
Large metropolis such as Manila and Jakarta fared relatively badly by comparison, both receiving less than two million international travellers a year. This is essentially due to the lack of image as a leisure destination and inherent problems plaguing both cities such as heavy road congestion and strong pollution.
Little also has been done from local authorities to paint out both cities in a more favourable light by emphasizing heritage, history, architecture, gastronomy, festivals or their nightlife. Manila will probably grow rapidly in the years to come as the city is now being turned into a major destination for gaming with a string of luxury resort hotels being developed along its famous Bay.
To be noticed are the emergence of secondary urban destinations such as Penang or Melaka in Malaysia- both becoming attractive destinations thanks to their integration into UNESCO World Heritage list; Danang or Nha Trang in Vietnam which are being redefined as beach resort and urban destinations at the same time. Or Siem Reap in Cambodia which continues to be the Kingdom’s most popular gateway for international travellers thanks to the proximity of Angkor Wat temples complex.
Finally, Myanmar is likely to see its cities becoming some of Southeast Asia top urban destinations in the years to come. In 2014, Yangon already welcomed over a million international travellers and before the end of the decade, that number could reach 2.5 million international visitors.