Three influencial travel surveys recently placed Bangkok either at or close to the top of the global list as a place to visit, shop and party the night away.
The most impressive accolade came from the readers of leading lifestyle publication Travel + Leisure, who in its annual "World's Best Awards" named Thailand's capital the world's best city of 2012 with a score of 89.87, ahead of Florence -- 89.14, Istanbul -- 89.11, Cape Town -- 88.64 and Sydney -- 88.52.
It's the second year in a row that Asia's "City of Angels" has topped the charts, thanks to its "abundant energy, superior value-for-money, and stylish design options", and the win is sure to spur even more visitors to head for Thailand, stopping off in Bangkok to enjoy its unique blend of distinctly local and strikingly cosmopolitan attractions.
Another favourite source of world travel intelligence, TripAdvisor, also recently asked their users to rank the best cities in the world, with categories that included everything from cleanliness and safety to transportation infrastructure and friendly taxi drivers. Bangkok came second globally for shopping, behind New York City, and ranked third when it came to value for money, behind Lisbon and Budapest.
When it comes to nightlife and entertainment, Bangkok has been high on people's party list for decades, although not always painted in the most favourable light when it comes to more dubious forms of pleasure. This year, however, such sleazy stereotypes were put aside by the Huffington Post, which included the city in its list of Top 20 best New Year's Eve celebrations. Naming the upscale district of Thonglor, the bustling backpacker zone around Khao San Road and the spectacular party and fireworks display at Central World Square, the site, which boasts some 3 to 7 million visits per day, referred to the city's Thai and international populations, "who come together to celebrate" on the last night of the year.
Such surveys have become so frequent online that many see the more as marketing tools than guidance for travellers, but Ministry of Tourism and Sports figures seem to suggest the results reflect real trends. Earnings from tourism in Thailand hit 776 billion THB (US$25.45 billion) in 2011, far above target, and visitor spending per capita, per day averaged 4,187 THB, of which 24% was spent on shopping.
When it comes to visitor numbers, Thailand is definitely still a winner in the numbers stakes with a projected 20.5 million visitors expected to step foot on Thai soil by the end of the year. Some 22.45 million tourists are expected in 2013, which means tourism remains one of the most important sources of revenue for the kingdom, as well as a major source of employment and the nationwide distribution of income.
An interesting new addition to the "Best of …" list also saw Bangkok take the top spot in an Instagram survey. Suvarnabhumi International Airport beat Disneyland, the Eiffel Tower and New York's Times Square to be the most "Instagrammed'' location in the world for 2012.