Dubai could be world’s no 1 for tourists by 2020

Emirate could overtake Bangkok for world's most popular destination if it wins Expo 2020

Dubai skyline (Bloomberg Images)

Dubai skyline (Bloomberg Images)

Dubai could become the world’s number one destination for international visitors if it wins the right to host Expo 2020, it has been claimed.

According to MasterCard’s latest Global Destination Cities Index, Dubai is set to be the seventh most popular destination city with 9.89m international overnight visitors in 2013, up 8.2 percent from last year.

If the glitzy emirate, which specialises in luxury hotels and shopping, continues its current rate of annual growth, by 2016 it will have moved into third place, above Paris and Singapore, which measured 13.92m and 11.75m guests, respectively. Bangkok ranked first in the index with 15.98m visitors.

As part of Dubai’s tourism strategy it is seeking to attract 20m international visitors annually by 2020, and the author of the Mastercard study believes that the Gulf destination could easily find itself in first place.

“It will definitely give Bangkok a run for its money with Expo 2020. That would be very, very useful. I think it will stand a good chance with the Expo,” Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, HSBC Distinguished Professor of International Business at the University of British Columbia in Canada, said at the official unveiling of the report.

Hedrick-Wong added that Dubai had an “untapped reservoir” in the form of transit traffic, which he said the emirate should focus on turning into overnight stays. According to figures from Dubai International Airport, year-to-date passenger traffic into the hub is up 16.3 percent to more than 21m.

“Increasing the ability to convert the transit [traffic] into overnight stays – to me that’s natural, because the reservoir of potential is so huge,” Hedrick-Wong said. “If you even got a 5 percent conversion rate a year - that would just change the dynamic – you would not need to rely on organic growth.”

He added that to better capitalise on transit traffic, Dubai should focus on small improvements and tweaks such as reducing immigration queues at the airport.

The MasterCard report also rated Dubai as the eighth most popular world destination in terms of overnight visitor spend and is forecast to rake in $10.4bn in tourism receipts this year, above cities including Barcelona and Rome. New York City was ranked number one in this regard with $18.6bn, followed by London at $16.3bn.

Hedrick-Wong said that he expected Dubai to build on this success in the coming years. “The bar is being raised continuously. For a place like Dubai, we have to look at what is the next level that will allow Dubai to stand out. That would create such a gap between Dubai and the rest, [so] that it can protect its advantage,” he said.

The MasterCard study was conducted using publicly available data from tourism and national statistics boards in each country featured in the index. The report only took into account air travel arrivals that included at least a one-night hotel stay.


Global Top 20 Destination Cities by International Overnight Visitors in 2013

1. Bangkok – 15.98m

2. London – 15.96m

3. Paris – 13.92m

4. Singapore – 11.75m

5. New York - 11.52m

6. Istanbul – 10.37m

7. Dubai – 9.89m

8. Kuala Lumpur – 9.2m

9. Hong Kong – 8.72m

10. Barcelona – 8.41m

11. Seoul – 8.19m

12. Milan – 6.83m

13. Rome – 6.71m

14. Shanghai – 6.5m

15. Amsterdam – 6.35m

16. Tokyo – 5.8m

17. Vienna – 5.37m

18. Taipei – 5.19m

19. Riyadh – 5.05m

20. Los Angeles – 4.84m


Global Top 20 Destination Cities by International Overnight Visitor Spend in 2013

1. New York - $18.6bn

2. London - $16.3bn

3. Paris - $14.6bn

4. Bangkok - $14.3bn

5. Singapore - $13.5bn

6. Tokyo - $12.7bn

7. Seoul - $10.8bn

8. Dubai - $10.4bn

9. Sydney - $10.4bn

10. Barcelona - $8.9bn

11. Istanbul - $8.6bn

12. Taipei - $8.1bn

13. Kuala Lumpur - $7.8bn

14. Los Angeles - $7.8bn

15. Shanghai - $6.9bn

16. Milan - $6.6bn

17. Vancouver - $6.5bn

18. Rome - $6.4bn

19. Amsterdam - $6.3bn

20. Miami - $6.3bn

Join the Discussion

Disclaimer:The view expressed here by our readers are not necessarily shared by Arabian Business, its employees, sponsors or its advertisers.

NOTE: Comments posted on may be printed in the magazine Arabian Business

Please post responsibly. Commenter Rules

Posted by: Ben

well then you have to change your title!! world tourist city destination, cos as a country, there is still work to do to reach the 60 millions+ of France...

All comments are subject to approval before appearing

Further reading

Features & Analysis
Sailing home: Barr Al Jissah creating luxury living in Oman

Sailing home: Barr Al Jissah creating luxury living in Oman

On a stunning tip of Oman’s almost-secluded coastline, local...

Arabian Travel Market: Diversification drives tourism investment

Arabian Travel Market: Diversification drives tourism investment

ATM in Dubai will show the changing face of the industry as entertainment...

Checking in to Africa's hospitality revolution

Checking in to Africa's hospitality revolution

With the African population soaring by 30 million people a year...

Most Discussed