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Abu Dhabi tops visitor increase in region

UAE capital to post 16.1% growth rate in 2013

Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News
A group of tourists shopping at the heritage village souk in Abu Dhabi
Gulf News

Dubai: Abu Dhabi is forecast to post the strongest growth rate in international visitor numbers in the region this year, surpassing those of other major destinations in the Middle East and Africa.

According to the latest Global Destination Cities Index by MasterCard, Abu Dhabi will be the seventh-most visited city in the region in 2013, with visitor arrivals estimated to reach 1.7 million, an increase of 16.1 per cent over 2012.

If the UAE capital maintains its growth pace in the coming years, it will move up to the third spot in the regional ranking. “Abu Dhabi will overtake Lagos (currently ranked fifth in the region) by 2016 and match Johannesburg (occupying the third spot) by 2017,” MasterCard said in its report.

The latest index, which ranks cities in terms of total international visitor arrivals and cross-border spending based on data gathered from 132 countries, provides visitor and passenger growth forecasts for 2013.

Dubai, whose visitor arrivals are estimated to grow by 10.9 per cent, is ranked seventh globally and remains number one in the Middle East and Africa. Despite its high growth forecast, Abu Dhabi has not made it to the top 10 or 20 global ranking.

“Abu Dhabi has a lot more distance to cover in order to catch up [in the world rankings], but it has a very impressive performance,” said Dr Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, global economic advisor for MasterCard and author of the report.

A huge proportion of Abu Dhabi’s international visitors will come from a mix of geographical locations. Visitors from London, expected to reach 134,000 this year, top the list, followed by travellers from Frankfurt, Bangkok, Doha and Duesseldorf. Visitor numbers from these top five “feeder” cities for Abu Dhabi will increase by up to 24 per cent.

Travellers from London are anticipated to spend $181 million in Abu Dhabi, while those originating from Frankfurt will spend $76, million. Bangkok and Doha travellers will spend $73 million each, and Duesseldorf visitors will spend $70 million.