Dubai retains Fourth Most Popular City in the World spot in Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index

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  • Dubai has highest international overnight visitor arrival spend at $28.50 billion USD
  • Emirate retains position as world’s fourth most popular destination with 14.87 million international overnight visitors in 2016
  • Abu Dhabi is Middle East and Africa’s fastest-growing city with a 2009 – 2016 CAGR of 18.9%                                                                                                                                                                       

Dubai has retained its ranking as the fourth most popular travel destination in the world, according to the ninth annual Mastercard Global Destinations Cities Index. The emirate welcomed 14.87 million international overnight visitors in 2016, with an expected continued growth of 7.7 percent for 2017.

Dubai continues to be the city with the highest international overnight visitor spend, amounting to $28.50 billion USD in 2016. Abu Dhabi, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 18.9 percent between 2009 and 2016 in its growth of visitors, also retained its position as the fastest growing city in the Middle East and Africa, and is the fourth fastest growing city globally.

Khalid Elgibali, Division President for Middle East and North Africa, Mastercard, shared: “Dubai’s top rankings in the ninth Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index reaffirms the strength of the emirate as a leading global travel, tourism and shopping destination. With its relentless focus on continuously innovating its business and leisure infrastructure and offerings, Dubai continues to reinforce its position on the world map as a highly attractive destination for visitors of all ages and nationalities. The city’s retail sector coupled with its year-round calendar of festivals, events and a wide range of shopping experiences, also continues to be a huge draw for international visitors as supported by its ranking as the top global destination in terms of visitor expenditure.”

“Another interesting insight that has surfaced from the GDCI 2017 findings is that travel and tourism spending is higher than global GDP growth. This highlights the phenomenal growth of the sector in recent years as the world becomes more connected and people become increasingly inclined to travel and explore new and distant lands. At Mastercard, we remain committed to keeping a pulse on the impact of these trends, to continuously drive innovations in the sector that would further simplify the payments journey for consumers during their travels,” he added.

Issam Kazim, CEO, Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM), said: “Travel and tourism are among Dubai’s key economic contributors and the city’s strong rankings in the Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index 2017 confirm the effectiveness of partnerships between the government and private sector in driving growth.”

“Dubai continues to be a must-visit and must-return destination for both business and leisure travellers, and the opening of world-class attractions and venues such as IMG Worlds of Adventure, Dubai Parks and Resorts and Dubai Opera in 2016 enhanced the offering for all visitors, including families.”

“With new offerings in 2017 including La Perle, the city’s first permanent theatrical show, and hotels such as Dukes Dubai and Address Boulevard taking the total number of rooms to over 105,000, Dubai has something fresh to offer visitors each time.”

“The retail sector, with festivals, promotions and events throughout the year, is also enhancing this appeal even further with visitors to Dubai presented with the opportunity to discover an extensive and ever-growing range of shopping activities for all budgets.”

Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index 2017 – Key Findings

The Index is more than a ranking of the 132 top destination cities of today and tomorrow. Based on visitor volume and spend for the 2016 calendar year, the in-depth analysis also provides a forecast for growth in 2017, insight on the fastest growing destination cities, and a deeper understanding of why people travel and how they spend around the world.

The Global Top 10 Destination Cities

International overnight visitors to the Top 10 destination cities were up in 2016. Forecasts for continued growth in 2017 are largely positive, with Tokyo expecting the largest growth in visitors.

2016 International Overnight VisitorsGrowth Forecast for 2017
Bangkok19.41 million visitors4.0 percent
London19.06 million visitors5.0 percent
Paris15.45 million visitors4.4 percent
Dubai14.87 million visitors7.7 percent
Singapore13.11 million visitors2.6 percent
New York12.70 million visitors(-2.4 percent)
Seoul12.39 million visitors0.4 percent
Kuala Lumpur11.28 million visitors7.2 percent
Tokyo11.15 million visitors12.2 percent
Istanbul9.16 million visitors0.9 percent

Spending Power: Destination Cities as Engines of Economic Growth

Since 2009, more than half of the top destination cities reported an increase in spend by overnight visitors consistent with or greater than GDP growth. These cities benefit greatly from tourism and are primed to be engines of broad economic growth for countries.

2016 International Overnight Visitor SpendGrowth Forecast for 2017
Dubai$28.50 billion USD10.2 percent
New York$17.02 billion USD1.5 percent
London$16.09 billion USD(-4.6 percent)
Singapore$15.69 billion USD0.3 percent
Bangkok$14.08 billion USD10.9 percent
Paris$12.03 billion USD4.9 percent
Tokyo$11.28 billion USD3.7 percent
Taipei$9.91 billion USD6.9 percent
Seoul$9.38 billion USD1.8 percent
Barcelona$8.90 billion USD6.9 percent

Destination Cities of Tomorrow

Globally, international overnight visitor arrivals across all 132 destinations have grown by 55.2 percent since 2009, significantly outpacing real GDP growth during the same period. The fastest growing destinations continue to demonstrate the importance of watching Asia/Pacific and the Middle East for future destination leaders.

Growth in visitors from 2009-2016
Osaka24.0 percent
Chengdu22.7 percent
Colombo20.3 percent
Abu Dhabi18.9 percent
Jakarta18.2 percent
Tokyo17.7 percent
Hanoi16.4 percent
Riyadh15.9 percent
Lima15.2 percent
Taipei14.5 percent


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