Top global destination cities: Dubai to surpass Singapore, New York and Paris by 2017

With pictures: Dubai will leapfrog New York in the number of international visitors by 2016 and surpass Paris a year later, according to MasterCard.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - May 23 2013 - Tourists from Turkey take pictures at the public beach by Burj Al Arab after being dropped off there by a tour bus. STOCK. (Razan Alzayani / The National)

Dubai will leapfrog New York in the number of international visitors by 2016 and surpass Paris a year later, according to MasterCard.

The emirate ranks seventh in a list of the world's top destination cities this year, the company said.

Bangkok topped the financial service organisation's Global Destination Cities Index, followed by London, Paris, Singapore and New York.

Istanbul, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Barcelona round out the top 10.

The number of visitors to Dubai, which climbed one place from last year's list, is expected to grow 10.9 per cent this year to 9.89 million people. That would rank it alongside Istanbul and Bangkok for the strongest growth in passenger arrivals.

"If all top 10 destination cities maintain their current rates of growth in the next few years, then by 2016 Istanbul will surpass Singapore, New York and Paris in terms of international visitor arrivals; and Dubai will similarly surpass Singapore and New York in 2016 and Paris in 2017," said the report.

Dubai's emergence as a global travel hub is funnelling more visitors into the emirate as they break their journeys on long-haul flights. Dubai International Airport said this week that passenger traffic gained 18.7 per cent in April from a year earlier and has been running at more than 5 million a month for the past five months.

The Middle East ranked highly among markets expanding the fastest in air connectivity, with Istanbul in first place, Dubai in second and Abu Dhabi in 12th.

Abu Dhabi did not make the top 20 global visitors list, but it is the seventh most popular city in the Middle East and Africa region, and is expected to welcome 1.7 million visitors this year.

The report pointed to reasons for the capital to be optimistic.

"The destination with the strongest growth rate among the top 10 [in the Middle East and Africa] is Abu Dhabi, in seventh rank, with its growth in arrivals in 2013 estimated at 16.1 per cent," the report said. "If the same growth rates are maintained in the coming years, Abu Dhabi will overtake Lagos in 2016 and match Johannesburg in 2017."

Dubai is expected to welcome almost double the number of international visitors as the second destination in the region, Riyadh, this year.

The emirate is also way ahead of the rest of the region in terms of visitor spend.

"Cross-border spending by international visitors in Dubai is estimated to be over three times higher than second-ranked Riyadh, 3.7 times higher than third-ranked Beirut, almost four times higher than the fourth-ranked Johannesburg, and is over six times higher than the sixth-ranked Abu Dhabi," the report said.