Dubai leads in tourist traffic and spending

Dubai: Dubai tops the Middle East and Africa’s destination cities by international tourist arrivals, according to new research released by MasterCard yesterday.

The latest index of Global Destination Cities shows that Dubai is leading the charge in the region in terms of tourist traffic and visitor spending. Dubai is beating other popular tourist hubs such as New York, Rome, Seoul and Amsterdam in terms of international visitor arrivals.

It is the ninth most highly ranked destination city in the world and is ranked third globally in terms of growth in visitor spending, outstripping key cities such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Taipei, Melbourne, Seoul and Bangkok.

The latest index of Global Destination Cities ranks 132 cities by total international tourist arrivals and cross-border visitor expenditures. It also gives tourist and passenger growth forecasts for this year. International travel is considered a powerful trend that impacts global commerce and underpins the growth of key industries such as transportation, retail and hospitality, and professional services like marketing and advertising.

Nodal hubs

“The leading cities of the world — the global cities — are the very nodal hubs that knit the global economy together. Without these global cities, there would be no globally economy,” said Dr Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, global economic adviser for MasterCard Worldwide.

In an interview with Gulf News, Hedrick-Wong said the data used in the research include, among others, the airlines’ announced flight capacity for 2011. “And since the airlines’ objective is to always increase their load factor, we used the historic average of the load factor, to be on the conservative side,” he said.

Dubai is expected to receive 7.9 million international visitors this year, the highest in the region. Second in rank is Cairo, with 3.7 million, followed by Johannesburg (3 million), Tel Aviv (2.7 million), Casablanca (2.5 million) and Abu Dubai (2 million).

Dubai also leads in terms of visitor expenditure, expected to reach $7.8 billion (Dh28.6 billion) this year. Beirut is second ($6.5 billion), followed by Tel Aviv ($3.8 billion), Cairo ($3.7 billion), Johannesburg (3.3 billion), Casablanca ($2.3 billion) and Abu Dhabi ($2 billion).

Many of Dubai’s visitors come from London, Kuwait, Beijing, Frankfurt and Paris. Travellers from London are expected to spend $876 million this year, while those from Kuwait are forecast to log $373 million in expenditures.

It is also interesting to note that Beijing now ranks third in spending.

For Abu Dhabi, the most tourists are coming from London, Frankfurt and Jeddah. More tourists from Paris, Manchester and Chicago are also visiting the capital.

Expert welcomes course correction

The UAE’s future economic growth is likely to become more sustainable, a top economic adviser told Gulf News yesterday.

Dr Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, global economic adviser for MasterCard Worldwide, said lingering concerns over Dubai’s debt repayment schedule are not a risk that could hit recovery.

“It’s a factor of a drag on growth because, for many years to come, a portion of the capital resource of the region will be spent on paying down the debt as opposed to investing. So the tradeoff is that we will have a lower rate of investment, but it’s not a risk factor,” Wong told Gulf News. Wong also noted that the recent financial crisis has turned out to be a good opportunity for the UAE, or the region as a whole, to reset its growth pattern. “The crisis actually served a good purpose for the region. We become more realistic. We now look at things in a more balanced way.”

Top 20: London ranks first

MasterCard’s latest index ranks London as the number one destination city by visitor numbers with 20.1 million inbound tourist traffic expected this year, ahead of Paris in second with 18.1 million.

Eight Asia-Pacific cities made it to the top 20, with Bangkok in the third spot. The only North American city in the list, New York, could welcome 7.6 million inbound tourists, the 12th on list.

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