Hong Kong is holding its own as a destination for America's elite, with tourists attracted by some of the world's best hotels as well as good noodles. An annual readers' survey by Travel & Leisure magazine ranked Hong Kong 39th in the world - one place up from last year though well down on 1996's 18th position. With Bangkok in 23rd place - the only Asian destination ahead of the SAR - Hong Kong seems to have been a victim of a bias towards English-speaking and European destinations by the magazine's readers, who are mostly affluent North Americans. With the exception of Jerusalem, all the top 20 cities are in European or English-speaking countries. The top five are Sydney, Rome, Florence, San Francisco and Melbourne. Thousands of readers of the influential New York-based magazine were asked to rate destinations, hotels, airlines, attractions, tour operators, car renters and cruise lines, with the results published in the September edition out yesterday. Three of the world's top hotels are in Hong Kong according to the survey, with the Peninsula rated 14th, one place ahead of the Regent, and the Mandarin Oriental coming in at 82. 'Any awards of this nature are always very much welcomed as it reflects the appreciation of people who have come to stay with us,' said the Peninsula's public relations director Sian Griffiths. 'It's good for staff morale as it's a team effort, so the fact that people say we're 14th in the world and the best hotel in Hong Kong is great, particularly at this time when things are tough,' she said. The high rankings of hotels in Hong Kong and elsewhere in Asia should reinforce the idea that good service is available here and could help to attract tourists, she added. Cathay Pacific held its fourth-placing among international airlines - behind Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand and Swissair - a result welcomed by the airline's corporate communications manager Quince Chong Wai-yan. 'This is international recognition of the excellence of service we give to our customers,' she said. The magazine said Hong Kong was a good place to buy antiques, Chinese-style wedding beds, Mao badges and mementos. It added that noodle and dumpling houses in the SAR were 'wonderful'.