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Bangkok voted world's best city in travel poll
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    Bangkok voted world's best city in travel poll

    Bangkok voted world's best city in travel poll
    By Agencies

    Bangkok was voted the world's best city for 2008 and the Galapagos were picked as the best islands in an online poll by Travel + Leisure magazine, winning over last year's winners Florence, Italy and Bali, Indonesia.

    US-based magazine readers also voted Singita Sabi Sand, at the Kruger National Park, South Africa, as the world's top hotel while Singapore Airlines grabbed the best airline award again.

    It was the first time that Bangkok and the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador topped their respective categories, said Nancy Novogrod, editor-in-chief of Travel + Leisure.

    Last year, Bangkok was ranked number 3 and the Galapagos number 8. The 2007 winners of best city and best island -- Florence and Bali -- fell to number 5 and number 2 respectively.

    Singapore Airlines was voted number one, followed by Emirates, Thai Airways and Cathay Pacific.

    Last year's number one hotel, the Oberoi Udaivilas in India, fell to number 4 this year. Singita Sabi Sands was voted the number two hotel in 2007.

    The results were complied from votes by magazine subscribers in an Internet poll which went live between January and March. Travel + Leisure will honour winners on July 24 in New York City.

    Top 10 cities :

    1 Bangkok, Thailand 87.61

    2 Buenos Aires, Argentina 87.24

    3 Cape Town, South Africa 86.59

    4 Sydney, Australia 86.49

    5 Florence, Italy 86.24

    6 Cuzco, Peru 86.15

    7 Rome, Italy 85.12

    8 New York, US 85.03

    9 Istanbul, Turkey 84.61

    10 San Francisco, US 84.42

    Top 5 Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific

    1 Sydney 86.49

    2 Melbourne 80.35

    3 Queenstown. New Zealand 79.95

    4 Perth 77.78

    5 Hobart 77.38

    Top 10 Asia :

    1 Bangkok, Thailand 87.61

    2 Kyoto, Japan 84.27

    3 Chiang Mai, Thailand 84.14

    4 Hong Kong 83.69

    5 Udaipur, India 83.51

    6 Shanghai, China 81.83

    7 Siem Reap, Cambodia 81.15

    8 Beijing, China 81.05

    9 Hanoi, Vietnam 80.87

    10 Jaipur, India 80.78

    Top 10 Europe :

    1 Florence, Italy 86.24

    2 Rome, Italy 85.12

    3 Istanbul, Turkey 84.61

    4 Paris, France 82.59

    5 Krakow, Poland 82.14

    6 Prague, Czech Republic 81.81

    7 Venice, Italy 81.74

    8 Barcelona, Spain 81.32

    9 Vienna, Austria 80.99

    10 Salzburg, Austria 80.63

    Top 5 Mexico and Central and South America

    1 Buenos Aires, Argentina 87.24

    2 Cuzco Peru 86.15

    3 San Miguel de Allende, Mexico 82.19

    4 Rio de Janeiro 80.15

    5 Antigua, Guatemala 79.92

    Top 10 Africa and the Middle East

    1 Cape Town 86.59

    2 Jerusalem 84.39

    3 Fez, Morocco 80.77

    4 Marrakesh, Morocco 80.46

    5 Cairo 80.23

    6 Dubai 78.86

    7 Tel Aviv 78.60

    8 Amman 74.52

    9 Tunis 71.93

    10 Alexandria 70.72

    Top 10 Islands :

    1 Galapagos Islands 87.64

    2 Bali 86.32

    3 Maui 86.09

    4 Kauai 85.87

    5 Tasmania 85.00

    6 Easter Island 84.78

    7 Hawaii 84.66

    8 Santorini 84.52

    9 Great Barrier Reef Islands 84.42

    10 Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia 83.82

    Top 3 Asia :

    |1 Bali 86.32

    2 Phuket Thailand 82.64

    3 Penang Malaysia 81.67

    Top 5 Europe :

    1 Santorini, Greece 84.52

    2 Dalmatian Islands, Croatia 83.50

    3 Sicily, Italy 82.92

    4 Ischia, Italy 82.41

    5 Cyclades, Greece (Santorini rated separately) 82.40

    Top 3 Mexico and Central and South America

    1 Galapagos Islands 87.64

    2 Easter Island, Chile 84.78

    3 Ambergris Cay, Belize 78.08

    Top 20 Hotel Spas:

    1 Wickaninnish Inn Tofino, Vancouver Island, Canada 92.66

    2 Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai, Thailand 92.19

    3 Lodge at Pebble Beach California, US 90.94

    4 Four Seasons Resort Nevis, US 90.88

    5 Maroma Resort & Spa Riviera Maya, Mexico 90.79

    6 Esperanza Resort Los Cabos, Mexico 90.63

    7 Auberge du Soleil Rutherford, California, US 90.37

    8 Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris, France 90.28

    9 Camelback Inn, A JW Marriott Resort & Spa Scottsdale, Arizona, US 90.14

    10 Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands 90.10

    11 Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa Maui, US 89.66

    12 The Oriental Bangkok, Thailand 89.58

    13 Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa Asheville, North Carolina, US 89.51

    14 One & Only Ocean Club Paradise Island, Bahamas 89.47

    15 Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas, US 89.42

    16 Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, US 88.75

    17 The Peninsula Chicago, US 88.64

    18 Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch Beaver Creek, Colorado, US 88.62

    19 Hotel del Coronado San Diego, US 88.16

    20 American Club Kohler, Wisconsin, US 87.99

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    Re: Bangkok voted world's best city in travel poll

    METRO

    Room for improvement

    Slow pace of life in capital appeals to elderly western tourists, but lively Asians bring in money too, writes Kamolwat Praprutitum

    Winning Travel & Leisure magazine's award as the World's Best City 2008 was a great achievement for Bangkok, but keeping the crown may not be easy, says a leading tourism planner.

    To hang on to the crown, Bangkok must understand the finer points of its tourism growth and observe trends, said Therdchai Choibamroong, the director of the Thailand Tourism Development Research Institute, which is under the Thailand Research Fund.

    While the award from the US-based Travel & Leisure magazine gives the city pride and prestige, it could also be a source of motivation for Bangkok to look inwards and harness its strengths and correct its weaknesses, said Mr Therdchai.

    Bangkok won the award after readers of the magazine, which has a circulation of close to one million, voted for their favourite cities.

    The publishers of the magazine, which is distributed to holders of the American Express card as well as subscribers in the US and Canada, claim it is read by 4.5 million people.

    The question now being asked is how widely the award was representative of the foreign tourists who arrive in Thailand. Statistics revealed tourists from North America - Americans and Canadians - who form the bulk of the readers who voted for the award, account for only 8% of overall arrivals in Thailand. Europeans accounted for only 26% last year. The largest share of the tourist pie is taken up by Asians.

    Mr Therdchai said although the award reflects the preference of only one tourist segment, it arouses curiosity as to what actually earned Bangkok the coveted top spot, although it beat Buenos Aires, the first runner-up, by a razor-thin margin. Bangkok walked away with a score of 87.61% compared with 87.24% for Buenos Aires.

    Mr Therdchai, who holds a PhD in tourism from the University of Queensland, said Bangkok may have won the prize for being in the "slow lane".

    He explained that the city exudes a leisurely pace of life and has many cultural attractions, which defines the concept of an authentic city, which is popular with foreign tourists, particularly Americans, Canadians and Europeans.

    The academic predicted a shift of consumer behaviour, where tourists will take time to appreciate their travel more and be more perceptive to exotic surroundings.

    He says they will be ready to switch on their five senses and fully immerse themselves in the experience. Thai food, for example, already enjoys a head start in the "slow food" trend, where tourists savour green curry while indulging in the sight of elaborately-carved garnishes.

    Mr Therdchai, however, cautioned that Bangkok's version of a "slow city" may not hold tourists forever because a large portion of foreign tourists from the baby-boom era are in a constant search for "slower," lesser-explored destinations. That is where Thailand is losing to Luang Prabang in Laos or Hue in Vietnam.

    The grey population will make inroads into global tourist traffic with high-spending American pensioners lifting the momentum of demand for "slow-lane" visits worldwide.

    But Bangkok may count its blessings as it manages reasonably well the balance of tourist offerings between the features of a slow city and non-cultural pull factors such as shopping, which top the must-do list for many Asian tourists.

    The laid-back beat of tourism here, and tourists' craving for the authentic charm of Bangkok explain the spectacular jump in the numbers of foreign visitors to the traditional massage school at Wat Pho as well as to culturally rich Chinatown in Yaowarat.

    "We can be as fast as we want, but when we go in reverse, we need to be certain we know exactly what to do," Mr Therdchai said.

    He said the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration may be getting into the "slow" act with the launch of the Saneh Krungthep (Enchanting Bangkok) tourism promotion touching on culture, dining, the river, and sight-seeing at night and shopping, which fits the trend of "slow" tourism.

    Mr Therdchai said the new genre of "smart tourism" is giving the traditional browsing tours - where tourists sniff the air around one attraction, hop back on the bus and head to another - a run for its money.

    When tourists slow their pace, they tend to appreciate more the finer details of their travel, affording them the chance to cultivate new knowledge along the way.

    However, residents also have a part to play.

    While tourists seek food for thought and generate income for the local economy, residents must be educated about the history of the attractions in their localities.

    Tourists form many of their impressions from meeting locals, who reinforce the "soul brand" if they can tell a story or two about their heritage or the tea shop at an intersection where aunts and uncles sip coffee over political chitchat.

    Mr Therdchai said Bangkok should not try to exaggerate the merits of winning the Best City award by claiming it is the best city to live in, which would spoil the credit earned. The best city to live in is rated using much broader criteria.

    But he said the most liveable city and best tourist destination may share some common ground.

    "The best city in the world for tourists is also the city in which people feel the most comfortable living," he said.

    Bangkok Post

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