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How and what the rich are buying too has changed in the year of the pandemic. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai remains an appealing location for high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) in 2021, according to Swiss Wealth Manager Julius Baer’s Lifestyle Index.

Dubai now ranks in 12th place on the Index, which rates 25 key cities worldwide, up from 17th position a year ago. The results were announced in Julius Baer’s Global Wealth and Lifestyle Report 2021, the second edition of the publication following the inaugural edition released in January 2020.

The Lifestyle Index tracks the price of a basket of goods and services representative of a HNWI lifestyle in key cities in Asia, the Americas and the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. Using the Index, investors can estimate the portfolio returns needed to preserve, or even grow, their purchasing power.


“If you combine [a] relatively attractive cost of living with the location, the weather, the tax regime… for a wealthy person [Dubai is] an attractive place to be,” said Mark Matthews, Head of Research Asia Pacific, during a roundtable discussion to mark the launch of the report.

Dubai’s biggest advantage lies in the price of residential property, according to Matthews.

“It’s only 9 per cent of what it costs in the most expensive place – which is Monaco,” he said. “It’s certainly an attractive feature.”

Apart from property, other bargains in Dubai are hard to come by, according to the report. Jewellery is slightly cheaper than the international average as gold tends to be cheaper in the UAE because it is subject to fewer taxes. However, most Index items are priced at the international average or higher.

Dubai is amongst the most expensive cities to buy alcohol: it is the second most expensive place to buy wine after Mumbai, and the fourth most expensive place to purchase whisky after Manila, Shanghai and Jakarta.

The report notes that the UAE economy took a hit from the COVID-19 outbreak shrinking by 8 per cent in 2020 with employment falling to the lowest levels since records began. However, Julius Baer is optimistic that the UAE is now in recovery mode.

“The situation is beginning to stabilise,” the report noted. “With its growing emphasis on research and development, technological advancements, and innovation, there seems little doubt that the country will bounce back as it prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2021.

Julius Baer expects the UAE’s non-oil economy to expand by 4.2 per cent this year and return to pre-crisis levels by mid-2022.

Overall, the report showed that Asia continues to be the most expensive region in the world for high- and ultra-high-net-worth individuals, and the three most expensive cities remain Shanghai, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. The Americas is the most affordable region to live a luxury lifestyle.

A theme of this year’s report is the extent to which the COVID-19 outbreak has impacted HNWI consumption patterns.

The collapse of global tourism in 2020 impacted this year’s index. The luxury category with the biggest price increases is business class flights, jumping 11.4 per cent. Ladies’ shoes and hotel suites had the biggest declines falling 11.7 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively.

The report also noted that the “conscious consumption” movement is gaining momentum with COVID-19 boosting consumer commitment to, and awareness of, buying ethically and sustainably.