Abu Dhabi is the fastest growing city for arrival numbers in the Middle East and Africa, according to MasterCard’s third annual Global Destination Cities Index.
While the UAE capital was ranked 61st in the 132-city index – and only came seventh in the regional top 10 with 1.7 million visitors – its 16.1 per cent growth places it in the realm of the fastest growing cities. At current growth rates, it will eclipse Lagos and Johannesburg within the next four years.
Dubai remains the stand-out city regionally however, recording 10.9 per cent growth and its 9.9 million visitors meant it was comfortably ahead of second placed Riyadh (5 million).
Dr Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, Global Economic Adviser for MasterCard and author of the report, said Dubai, along with Bangkok, showed the strongest arrivals growth among the top 10 cities (11 per cent), but the clear goal was to convert more transfer traffic into overnight stays.
“If they only get a five per cent conversion, it will change the game,” he said.
He added there was “no question” that Dubai would jump into the top three if it meets its target to attract 20 million visitors by 2020, but warned not to focus on figures alone. Dubai will surpass Singapore, New York and Paris in the next four years at current growth rates. Dubai was ranked seventh in the global index.
“The numbers are important but at some point the numbers need to translate into the quality of business spending, productivity and job creation,” he said.
The index also contained data on overnight visitor spend, which provided some interesting findings. Beirut didn’t make the top 10 cities in the region by arrivals but still generated $2.8 billion in revenues given its appeal to affluent consumers.
Bangkok marginally edged out London to take overall top spot in the index.