Thailand is Asia Pacific’s most popular tourist destination: Mastercard

Thailand: Asia Pacific's most popular travel destination
Thailand: Asia Pacific's most popular travel destination   

Thailand dominated as the most popular regional travel destination last year, with three of its cities making the top ten in MasterCard's Asia Pacific Destinations Index 2015.

Bangkok was the most popular city by arrivals, total nights stayed and total amount spent, according to the MasterCard report based on findings sourced primarily from national tourism boards.

The survey is based on 167 destinations from 22 countries across Asia Pacific, and represent 90.1 percent of all international overnight arrivals in the region, MasterCard said.

The Thai capital saw 21.9 million international overnight visitors in 2015, a 28.6 percent growth from the year before, said MasterCard.

"Our Asia Pacific Destinations Index 2015 reveals the continued resilience of the Thailand market for tourism led by a resurgent Bangkok," said Matthew Driver, Asia Pacific group executive of global products & solutions at MasterCard.

The Thailand tourism industry has been defiantly strong despite challenges such as the Bangkok bombing at a busy central intersection last August which killed 20 and injured more than 120 people, reported Reuters.

Famous for delectable street food and maze-like shopping markets, Bangkok's tourists stayed a cumulative total of 107 million nights and spent $15.2 billion in 2015, according to the Destinations Index.

Phuket and Pattaya were also in the top ten most popular tourist spots, experiencing 15.5 percent and 10 percent year-on-year growth in 2015, respectively.

Singapore came in second in terms of most popular cities, although nowhere close to Bangkok's figures, with 11.8 million international overnight visitors.

Tokyo (11.8 million) was the third most popular destination on the index, followed by Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur (11.3 million). The figures were rounded up to one decimal place, which is why Singapore and Tokyo appear to have the same number of tourists..

This is a promising investment theme in China
This is a promising investment theme in China   

Seoul enjoyed the second most tourist expenditure in 2015 after Bangkok at $14.4 billion, followed by Singapore at $14.1 billion.

Shanghai and Beijing were where tourists spent the mos: an average daily spend of $269 and $262, respectively.

Asia Pacific's tourism industry overtook Europe in 2014 in terms of travel and tourism total contribution to GDP in absolute terms, according to World Tourism and Travel Council data.

What contributed to the bulk of growth? Mainland Chinese tourists, specifically in Chiba, Osaka, Tokyo, Hokkaido, Bangkok, Phuket and Pattaya, MasterCard said.

Chinese tourists have been flocking to Japan in droves. Mainland Chinese tourists to Japan grew 99.6 percent year-on-year in September and October last year, according to official data

Driver explained that the Asia Pacific Destinations Index can help businesses and governments understand their tourism demand, and plan ahead to ensure the sustainable development of the industry.

"This is becoming increasingly important as tourist numbers continue to rise, [because] at current growth rates, Asia Pacific will have more than 500 million tourist arrivals by 2020," he said.

Follow CNBC International on Twitter and Facebook.