Westminster underground
A report from MasterCard predicts that over 18 million people will visit London this yearReuters

London is expected to be the most visited destination by international travellers in 2014, topping the list for the third time in four years, according to the annual Global Destinations Index, compiled by MasterCard.

The report said London will receive 18.7 million visitors this year.

Bangkok, which topped the list in 2013, has dropped to second with an expected 18.37 million visitors.

The list, which has now been running for four years, ranks the 132 most visited cities in the world and surprisingly a US city isn't in the top five. Chicago is the fastest growing US city in terms of visits.

After Bangkok is Paris, then Singapore and then Dubai: destinations that are benefitting from a surge in international travel fuelled by an expanding middle class, as well as innovations in luxury travel and rising need for business travel, noted MasterCard.

"The index points to a continued strong demand and interest in air travel, both for business and personal travel," said Ann Cairns, president of international markets, MasterCard.

"The recognition of this year's top international destinations reinforces the continued importance of cities as business, cultural and economic hubs."

Just over two thirds of London's international travellers are coming from other European cities which highlights that Europe's economy is well on the road to recovery.

"For London in particular, being recognised once again for its place as the top destination will further boost this city's ability to continue to be a global leader, whether it is hosting events that shine a spotlight on this city to draw in further investment or inspiring those within to drive economic growth," said Cairns.