Dubai’s ongoing efforts to position itself as a leisure and business hub has resulted in growing visitor numbers to the city as well as higher rankings on various global traveler and meeting indexes.
This week, global payments giant MasterCard announced that Dubai has risen to fourth position out of 132 top destinations for international travelers in the MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index, behind London, Paris and Bangkok. A one-place rise since 2014 figures, Dubai has risen from the eighth position in 2012 and MasterCard predicts that the emirate will welcome almost 14.3 million international visitors in 2015, a ratio of 5.7 international overnight visitors per city resident. Official figures released by Dubai’s Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) in May of this year showed that the emirate welcomed 13.2 international overnight visitors in 2014.
MasterCard’s announcement came days after Dubai retained its top ranking in the Middle East region for international association meetings, and climbed 19 places globally to 44th position in the 2014 International Congress & Convention Association (ICCA) World Rankings – up from 63rd place in 2013.
The ICCA rankings are considered the most dependable and consistent benchmark on how individual destinations which host international association meetings are performing. International organizations and associations regularly use ICCA rankings to gauge the event hosting capacity of a city they may wish to host events in.
In terms of international meetings, Dubai had more news to celebrate, as the Union of International Association (UIA) announced in a recently published report that Dubai made huge leaps forward in the number of international meetings hosted. Hosting 146 international meetings in 2014, compared to 80 in 2013, Dubai jumped from 21st position to 14th globally.*
Commenting on Dubai’s growing appeal to international leisure and business visitors, His Excellency Helal Almarri, director general of Dubai Tourism, said, “Dubai as a destination is ever evolving in order to create memorable experiences for its guests through world-class infrastructure, excellent service and remarkable attractions which are compelling and entice visitors to return. Although the MasterCard rankings are predictive, they do approximate with our own estimations of future growth and are a clear demonstration of Dubai’s continual rise as a global destination of choice.
With regards to business tourism, the increase in the number of meetings and conferences being hosted in Dubai is significantly contributing to the rise in visitor numbers while also positioning the emirate as a global hub for creation, education and innovation.
We are very pleased that the efforts being exerted by the city’s tourism stakeholders to deliver the Tourism Vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE vice president and prime minister and ruler of Dubai, and create remarkable experiences for both leisure and business visitors are seeing results, and will continue to seek to reach into new markets while maintaining and increasing our share of existent markets.”
Expanded airport capacity to continue driving growth
As international meetings in the city continue to rise, so do the number of international travelers who are choosing to visit Dubai. The city welcomed 13.2 million international overnight travelers in 2014, an 8.4 percent increase over 2013. The purpose of visits, although dominated by leisure at 59 percent, saw over 21 percent visiting for business, and another 17 percent visiting friends and/or relatives.
As a hub between East and West, and a gateway to emerging markets across the world, Dubai International Airport (DXB) has become the world’s number one airport in terms of international passengers, with over 70.47 million passengers using DXB in 2014.
Construction is also expected to begin later this year on the expansion of Dubai’s second airport, Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central (DWC). The existing six million passengers per year capacity terminal is set to be to be increased to 26 million passengers per year by Q1 in 2017, as part of a US$32 billion expansion project announced in September 2014 to create the world’s biggest airport, with an ultimate capacity in excess of 200 million passengers per year.