Dubai is set to retain its rank among the world's top 10 most popular cities with international visitors in 2019 while Egypt's Red Sea resort town Hurghada is expected to make the biggest leap up the ranks, a new study found.
The UAE hub remains the seventh most-visited city in the world with 16.3 million international arrivals, beating Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur and New York with 14.7m, 14.1m and 14m visitors, respectively, according to the Top 100 City Destinations report by UK-based market research consultancy Euromonitor International. Asian cities dominated the charts with Hong Kong expected to remain the most popular city to visit this year, despite ongoing anti-government protests marked by violent clashes that clipped international visitor numbers in the second half of 2019
"Dubai continues to lead the [Middle East] region in terms of numbers of arrivals, despite a flat growth rate during 2018," the report said. "A free transit visa for two days for Dubai and Abu Dhabi helped to sustain arrival numbers."
Globally, inbound arrivals are expected to grow 4.2 per cent this year to 1.5 billion trips in 2019. Euromonitor's list shows tourism in Asia is outpacing other regions. Asia accounts for 43 of the top 100 cities, rising steadily since 2013, because of higher income levels and the increasing number of Chinese as well as millennial travellers from Asian economies boosting intra-regional travel.
Europe is the second biggest region that travellers visit in 2019, however, London dropped two places to fifth position because of uncertainty around Brexit. North America performed well, but most American cities slipped in the study because of competition from Europe and Asia.
The Middle East and North Africa posted "stable growth" led by Dubai, according to the report.
Euromonitor's list includes 13 Middle Eastern cities with the region posting an 8.7 per cent rise in tourist arrivals and 9.1 per cent increase in tourism earnings year-on-year in 2019.
"Leading cities with good infrastructure, such as Dubai and Riyadh, are investing in greater entertainment avenues such as theme parks, concerts, health and wellness and medical tourism," the report said.
Egypt made a comeback, thanks to its tourism reform programme and improving security, with Hurghada making the biggest jump in the list. It is projected to jump 19 positions to 63rd place in 2019 from 82nd last year.
Egypt remains the leading North African destination, according to the report. Sharm-el-Sheikh, Hurghada, Cairo, Alexandria and Luxor have all seen strong growth, with the return of visitors from the UK and Russia, it said.
Among the cities to watch this year is Delhi, which is forecast to climb to 8th position in 2019, from 11th last year, thanks to its connectivity and improvements in infrastructure.
"It is witnessing rapid development in its tourism infrastructure, having a world class airport and is focusing on luxury, medical, sports and cultural tourism," the report said. "Delhi’s connectivity to important locations across North India has boosted inbound arrivals to the city."
Among the key concerns facing tourism is the escalating trade tensions between the US and China, though many cities in the US are focusing on marketing activities to attract Chinese visitors and tap into that lucrative market, the report said.
Euromonitor's research covers 400 cities around the world to examine international visitors who stay in the country for longer than 24 hours and less than 12 months. These arrivals include all purposes of visit, such as business, leisure and visiting friends and relatives. It excludes those in employment, who study abroad, military personnel, transportation crew, and people displaced because of war or natural disasters.
The 2019 rankings were calculated using estimated arrivals figure based on part-year data.