Dubai moves up to fifth in MasterCard Global Destination Index

Rise of two places with the emirate set to receive more tourists than New York this year.

The Atlantis Hotel on the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai. Jeff Topping / The National
Powered by automated translation

Dubai has more visitors per resident than anywhere else in the world as the emirate climbed the rankings of the world’s most visited cities.

The city of mega-malls and gleaming skyscrapers made it to fifth place in the annual MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index, which surveyed 132 cities.

With 4.8 visitors for every resident, a tourist is never far away. Amsterdam followed with 2.6 visitors per resident.

Dubai jumped two places overall in the index as it expects to receive more tourists than New York and Istanbul this year.

London topped the global payments solutions company’s survey, followed by Bangkok, Paris and Singapore. The Thai capital fell in the rankings as a result of political unrest, which scared many tourists away.

Dubai expects to receive 11.95 million international overnight visitors, an increase of 7.5 per cent, according to the survey.

A steady growth rate in visitor arrivals in Dubai means the emirate is likely to overtake Paris and Singapore in five years in terms of international overnight visitors, according to MasterCard.

Overnight international visitors include those staying at paid accommodation and with friends and family.

International visitors form the bulk of arrivals in the emirate, with those from London, Riyadh, Kuwait, Jeddah and Paris the major source markets. Almost 62 per cent of the total arrivals originate outside the country.

“While growth rates of visitors from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are either dropping or barely growing, visitors from London and Paris are growing strongly in double digits,” said Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, the Singapore-based global economic adviser to MasterCard and co-author of the report, along with the independent research analyst Desmond Choong.

. “This is consistent with the trend that international visitors from outside of the region are becoming more important for Dubai.”

With its strategic location, the city is a short-haul destination for most of the major markets such as Saudi Arabia and India.

“People will keep coming for three to five days no matter what the situation is elsewhere in the Middle East, and regional tourism will always remain,” said Kulwant Singh, the managing director of Dubai-based Lama Tours. “And the footfall will increase as we have a larger share of air connectivity.”

Among the new markets he sees opening up are Norway, Albania, Spain, Greece, Sudan and Algeria.

The emirate last year received 11 million visitors, a growth of 10.6 per cent year-on-year, according to Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing. The top 20 international source markets for Dubai contributed 7.11 million tourists that year.

This year, Dubai is expected to emerge as the top city globally to attract the highest international overnight visitor expenditure per resident at US$3,863, according to MasterCard.

Visitors spent $10.9 billion in Dubai, making it the fifth highest market in terms of visitor spending.

Abu Dhabi ranked fifth in the Middle East and Africa in international overnight visitor spending at US$1.9bn.

Dubai was also the fourth largest air hub in the world in terms of international connectivity – the only destination from Middle East and Africa in the top 10 – with a growth rate of 44.6 per cent in passenger numbers in the past five years. The ranking is based on the weekly non-stop flight frequencies to international city destinations.

London also topped this list, followed by Paris and Frankfurt. New York, Istanbul, Amsterdam, Singapore, Hong Kong and Moscow rounded up the top 10 air hubs list.

Abu Dhabi did not make it to the top 20 global visitors list, but it is the fourth most popular city in the Middle East and Africa (MEA), expecting to receive 2.1 million visitors this year.

Other MEA cities in the top five of this ranking include Riyadh, which is expected to welcome 5.6 million tourists, Johannesburg at 4.3 million, and Cape Town at 1.6 million.

Last year, London attracted 16.8 million overseas tourists, according to the UK’s Office for National Statistics.

Follow us on Twitter @Ind_Insights