Dubai One of The World’s Most Visited Cities

  • Dubai welcomed 15.79 million overnight visitors in 2017, retaining its ranking as fourth most popular destination globally
  • The Emirate also leads the pack again as top global destination for highest international overnight visitor arrival spend at $29.70 billion
  • Abu Dhabi is Middle East and Africa’s fastest-growing city with a 2009 – 2017 CAGR of 18.21%

Dubai has retained its ranking as the fourth most visited city in the world for the fourth straight year, according to Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities Index (GDCI) 2018. The city welcomed 15.79 million overnight visitors last year and with a projected growth rate of 5.5 percent, the emirate is expected to witness another year of steady expansion in 2018.

Dubai has also topped the list of global cities with the highest international overnight visitor spend for the third year in a row, with total international visitor spending of $29.70 billion in 2017.

Abu Dhabi has once again been named the fastest growing city in the Middle East and Africa, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 18.21 percent between 2009 and 2017 in overnight visitor arrivals. The UAE’s capital city is also among the top 10 global cities that experienced the strongest growth in international arrivals in the Mastercard study.

“Reaffirming its standing as a destination of choice for global travelers, Dubai has once again secured top rankings in Mastercard’s annual Global Destinations Cities Index. With its dynamic range of tourism, leisure, lifestyle, hospitality and business offerings, the emirate continues to attract visitors from across the globe. Renowned for global firsts and world records, Dubai has never shied away from evolving, and has transformed itself into one of the world’s most prolific tourism and investment hubs. The index offers research and insights into global spending and travel patterns, helping cities to innovate and improve their offerings and enrich the lives of residents and visitors alike.” said Girish Nanda, General Manager, UAE & Oman, Mastercard.

Issam Kazim, CEO, Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM) comments: “The Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index 2018 confirms Dubai’s retained position as fourth most visited city in the world, cementing the success of joint initiatives we have been working on over the last 12 months in partnership with both government departments and the private sector. With a focus on highlighting the depth of Dubai’s offering, encouraging visitors to look beyond the city’s iconic landmarks Dubai has continued to be a must-visit and must-return destination. New attractions and experiences have contributed to this success – from culture and the arts to history and heritage as well as updates to attractions. The retail sector is also further enhancing its offering, presenting visitors with the opportunity to experience an ever-evolving array of shopping districts, activities and offers.”  

Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index 2018 – Key Findings

The GDCI, which expanded this year to look at global 162 cities, is more than a ranking of the top travel destinations. Based on visitor volume and spend for the 2017 calendar year, the in-depth analysis also provides a growth forecast for 2018 and—for the first time—a view into average length of stay and amount spent per day.

The Global Top 10 Destination Cities

 2017 International Overnight VisitorsGrowth Forecast for 2018Average Length of StayAverage Spend Per Day
Bangkok20.05 million 9.6%4.7 nights$173
London19.83 million 3.0%5.8 nights$153
Paris17.44 million 2.9%2.5 nights$301
Dubai15.79 million 5.5%3.5 nights$537
Singapore13.91 million 4.0%4.3 nights$286
New York13.13 million 4.1%8.3 nights$147
Kuala Lumpur12.58 million 7.5%5.5 nights$124
Tokyo11.93 million 1.6%6.5 nights$154
Istanbul10.70 million 19.7%5.8 nights$108
Seoul9.54 million 6.1%4.2 nights $181


Top Cities by Dollars Spent

Dubai continues to be the top-ranking destination city based on overnight visitor spend, with visitors spending $537 per day on average. It is joined in the Top 10 with newcomers Makkah, Saudi Arabia, which debuts in the number two spot, Palma de Mallorca, Spain, and Phuket, Thailand. Of the most visited cities, Istanbul comes in with the lowest spend per day at just $108 on average.

 2017 International Overnight Visitor Spend (USD)Forecast for 2018Average Spend by Day
Dubai$29.70 billion 7.8%$537
Makkah$18.45 billion 7.4%$135
London$17.45 billion 13.7%$153
Singapore$17.02 billion 7.4%$286
Bangkok$16.36 billion 13.8%$173
New York$16.10 billion 4.1%$147
Paris$13.05 billion 16.0%$301
Palma de Mallorca$11.96 billion 16.2%$220
Tokyo$11.91 billion 7.8%$154
Phuket$10.46 billion 12.6%$239


Whether people visit cities for business or leisure, Mastercard works with a broad range of partners, including tourism bodies, urban planners, banks and merchants to:

  • Identify and address urban challenges through scalable solutions in digital inclusion and economic development; Mastercard recently launched City Possible, a global platform for cities, research institutions and private sector organizations to address common challenges through collaboration
  • Simplify access to key urban services such as public transportation; in over 100 cities (and growing), visitors and locals can use the contactless Mastercard they already carry to access trains and buses
  • Help people traverse the globe with peace of mind: Seamless planning, conveniences, and connectivity at their destination and worry-free acceptance at millions of locations around the globe
  • Create unique experiences across food, entertainment and shopping in 42 Priceless Cities around the globe, including Bangkok, London, Paris and many others throughout the Index

The Mastercard Index of Global Destination Cities ranks cities in terms of the number of their total international overnight visitor arrivals and the cross-border spending by these same visitors in the destination cities in 2017, and gives international overnight visitor growth forecasts for 2018.

Public data is used in deriving the international overnight visitor arrivals and their cross-border spending in each of the 162 destination cities.

Forecasts are based upon the weighted average of the national level tourism forecasts and the actual 2018 monthly data at the destination level, which is available to the latest month before release.

This Index and the accompanying reports are not based on Mastercard volumes or transactional data.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here