Conde Nast Traveler is a wonderful magazine. In every monthly edition, I usually find at least a couple of articles that I enjoying reading and which are also good material for a blog. The latest edition’s focus is on ASIA; not only do they have a profile on the exotic and relatively unknown “Stan countries” of Central Asia – Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgzstan, and Tajikistan - all of which were former republics of the now defunct Soviet Union but there is an interesting foldout section called “Occidental Tourists”. This article features a short bio on the 16 most popular Asian destinations for the American traveler. As part of the bio for each country, they list the total number of U.S. visitors for 2007, the number of daily nonstop flights from the U.S. and the cost of a Big Mac (with the percentage difference from the U.S. price of $3.57), which I have coined the McDonald’s Index.
Funny thing, I never have eaten a Big Mac in my entire life, and when I see a McDonald’s in a foreign country, my stomach gets a little queasy. Fortunately not all of the countries on Conde Nast’s popularity list have been infiltrated by the ‘King of Fast Foods’. Curiously enough, India, the 3rd most popular country with 697,000 US visitors (2006), has the least inexpensive Big Macs at $1.31, which is 63% less than a Big Mac in the USA. Being #1 on the McDonald’s index may be a general indicator of the buying power of the US dollar. You may be wondering, what was the most popular Asian country for Americans? The answer is China with 1,710,300 US visitors (these figures are tabulated from 2006).
The complete list (based on number of American visitors in 2007 unless as noted):
#1 China (1,710,300)* #2 Japan (815,900) #3 India (696,739) * #4 Thailand (682,000) #5 Philippines (679,000) #6 Vietnam (412,301) #7 Singapore (409,000) #8 Malaysia (205,000) #9 Cambodia (137,539), #10 Indonesia (131,000) #11 Pakistan (126,168) * #12 Nepal (19,925)* #13 Bangladesh (13,422)* #14 Mongolia (9,649)** #15 Myanmar (6,309) * and #16 Bhutan (5018)*
*Figures are based on US visitors in 2006
** Figures based on US visitor in 2004
A couple of observations - China by far was the most popular Asian destination for Americans with Japan a distant 2nd; India, Thailand, Philippines were closely bunched together at 3, 4 and 5 respectively; Vietnam is rapidly becoming a favorite destination with Americans and note the steep drop-off for those countries that were in the 12-16 positions. A glaring omission from the list was Laos, Thailand’s neighbor to the Northeast.
I would like to institute “a Starbucks Index” – for each country in a geographical area (Asia as an example), I would like to do an inventory of the total number of Starbuck stores and the average price for a cup of joe (coffee). In Bangkok, Thailand, there are numerous Starbucks scattered around the city. Anybody know how many?