Dubai has retained its position as the fourth most popular travel destination in the world – and the top-ranked destination in the Middle East – according to the eighth annual Mastercard Global Destinations Cities Index released recently.
Abu Dhabi – with a growth rate of 19.81 percent – is the fastest growing city in the Middle East and Africa and the third fastest growing city worldwide. This marks the United Arab Emirates as both the most visited and fastest growing country in the region for the second year in a row.
Bangkok topped this year’s list of the world’s most popular travel destinations, pushing London to second spot, with Paris and New York rounding off the top five.
The Index provides more than a ranking of the 132 most visited cities around the world. It projects visitor volume and spend estimates for the 2016 calendar year, while delivering a deeper understanding of how people travel and spend around the world. As cross-border travel and spending continue to grow at a faster pace than the world GDP, the world’s cities continue to be engines of broader economic growth.
The biggest surprise in this year’s Index is Dubai’s jump to the top rank based on international visitor spending of US$31.3 billion, far exceeding the second-ranked London estimated at US$19.8 billion.
“The findings of the Index show that Dubai is firmly entrenched at the high table of global tourism and travel,” said Eyad Al Kourdi, Senior Vice President and General Manager, UAE, Mastercard. “Tourism remains the heartbeat of Dubai’s economy, and the steady rise in visitor numbers indicates how the emirate’s fascinating mix of iconic attractions is proving ever more compelling to today’s international traveler. With marquee events such as the Expo 2020 looming on the near horizon, one can expect the accolades to keep coming as Dubai looks to make further progress towards its goal of becoming the world’s most visited city within the next five years.”
Issam Kazim, CEO, Dubai’s Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM) said: “Maintaining our position in the Mastercard Global Destinations Cities Index as fourth most popular travel destination in the world demonstrates Dubai’s ongoing commitment to the continued development of our tourism proposition and our efforts to maintain growth in visitor numbers to the emirate. Our strong partnerships between government and private sectors ensure that Dubai’s reputation as a must experience destination continues to drive visitor growth in line with our Tourism Vision for 2020.”
“The emirate’s top rank based on international visitor spending highlights the city’s vast offering as a family destination. In addition it confirms Dubai’s status as a destination that attracts repeat visits due to its continually evolving tourism offering, from popular shopping options such as our incredible malls to traditional gold and textiles souqs plus new and upcoming entertainment venues like IMG Worlds of Adventure and The Dubai Opera as well as Dubai Parks and Resorts. Dubai caters to all budgets and visitors can still take a traditional abra across the creek for just AED1 as well as enjoying a wide range of open parks and beaches,” he added.
According to the study, Dubai is expected to receive 15.27 million international visitors in 2016, an increase of 7.5 percent over 2015. Forecasted overnight visitors to the Top 10 cities include:
- Bangkok – 21.47 million
- London – 19.88 million
- Paris – 18.03 million visitors
- Dubai – 15.27 million visitors
- New York – 12.75 million visitors
- Singapore – 12.11 million visitors
- Kuala Lumpur – 12.02 million visitors
- Istanbul – 11.95 million visitors
- Tokyo – 11.70 million visitors
- Seoul – 10.20 million visitors
Fastest Growing Destination Cities Unlock Growth Trends
The difference between the global Top 10 and the fastest growing Top 10 destination cities suggests that Asia/Pacific and the Middle East and Africa have become increasingly important to the global economic landscape. Many cities measured on the Index have increasing growth trajectories, indicating the growing interest in both visiting and living in cities.
Over the seven-year period, Osaka showed the strongest growth in international visitors (24.5 percent). Other cities that made the Top 10 fastest growing destinations include:
- Chengdu – 20.14 percent
- Abu Dhabi – 19.81 percent
- Colombo – 19.57 percent
- Tokyo – 18.48 percent
- Riyadh – 16.45 percent
- Taipei – 14.53 percent
- Xi’an – 14.20 percent
- Tehran – 12.98 percent
- Xiamen – 12.93 percent
For the first time, the Index explores whether visitors travel for business or leisure, and provides insights into how international visitors are spending, including dining, lodging and shopping. The 2016 Index shows that among the Top 20 cities, more people travel internationally for leisure, except to Shanghai. In terms of discretionary spending decisions, most visitors overwhelmingly spent more while shopping, except in Paris, New York, Barcelona and Amsterdam where dining was the top category. Seoul topped the list for greatest percentage spent on shopping against all categories at 58.7 percent.
Identifying Regional Trends
The Index provides insight into top destination cities in each region, including:
Asia/Pacific –The region dominates both the global Top 10 (five cities) and Top 10 fastest growing destination cities (six cities).
Europe –London, ranked second globally and first in the region, is the top feeder city in terms of visitor and spending volume for all other cities that round out the top European destinations: Paris, Istanbul, Barcelona and Amsterdam.
Latin America –Lima is both the top destination and fastest growing city in the region, with 4.03 million visitors (ranked 32nd globally) and a growth rate of 9.9 percent (ranked 15th globally). However, the rankings are very different in terms of overnight visitor spend; Punta Cana leads the region with US$2.95 billion followed by Mexico City (US$2.27 billion).
Middle East and Africa – Dubai is the top ranked destination city in the region (ranked fourth globally), while Abu Dhabi is the fastest growing in the region with a growth rate of 19.81 percent.
North America –New York, ranked fifth globally, is the top destination city in the region. It significantly surpasses the rest of the region in overnight visitor spend at US$18.25 billion. Nearly 90 percent of New York’s international visitors are from outside North America, led by London, Paris, Sao Paulo and Beijing.
Mastercard understands the significant role that cities play as centers of commerce, reflected in efforts to deliver technologies that provide greater efficiencies and convenience for governments and people. One example is the broad adoption of contactless payments by transit systems like London and Chicago. The insights from this report can also help airlines, hotels and other merchants create smarter, more relevant and customized experiences for their customers.