Tourists at the souq in Bur Dubai. International visitors spent a total of $29.7 billion during their visit to Dubai in 2017, putting it on top of the list of international visitor spending. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Archive

Dubai: With nearly 15.8 million overnight visitors in 2017, Dubai retained its ranking as the fourth most visited city in the world for the fourth year in a row, according to Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities Index.

Bangkok, meanwhile, topped the list for most visited city, with 20.04 million international visitors. It was followed by London (19.83 million international visitors), and Paris (with 17.44 million international visitors).

In fifth place was Singapore, followed by New York, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Istanbul, and Seoul.

Abu Dhabi was named the fastest growing city in the Middle East and Africa in terms of overnight visitor arrivals, with a CAGR of 18.2% between 2009 and 2017.


The index by Mastercard that expanded this year to look at 162 cities globally, is based on visitor volumes and spend for a given year. It also provides growth forecasts for the next year.

The latest edition of the index said that growth forecast for visitors to Dubai in 2018 is at 5.5 per cent, with the average length of stay of visitors being 3.5 nights.

$537 average global visitor spending per day in Dubai

It put average spend per day at $537 (Dh1,972), making Dubai the top city in terms of visitor spending. It is followed by Paris, where average spend per day for international visitors is $301, and Singapore where spending per day averages $286. Other cities in the top 10 most-visited list all have spending averages below $200 a day.

One of the world’s most visited cities, Istanbul, recorded the lowest spend per day globally of $108 on average.

For Dubai, that also puts its total international visitor spend at the top of the list, with $29.7 billion. It is followed by Makkah where total spending in 2017 by international visitors amounted to $18.45 billion, then London ($17.45 billion), Singapore ($17.02 billion), and Bangkok ($16.36 billion).

5.5% growth forecast in visitor numbers in 2018 for Dubai

Issam Kazim, chief executive officer of tourism body Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM), said new attractions in the city as well as offerings by the retail sector have helped attract more visitors.

“With a focus on highlighting the depth of Dubai’s offering, encouraging visitors to look beyond the city’s iconic landmarks, Dubai has continued to be a must-visit and must-return destination,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi was named the fastest growing city in the Middle East and Africa in terms of overnight visitor arrivals, with a compounded annual growth rate of 18.2 per cent between 2009 and 2017.

Top 10 cities by international overnight visitor numbers

1. Bangkok, 20.05 million international visitors
2. London, 19.83 million
3. Paris, 17.44 million
4. Dubai, 15.79 million
5. Singapore, 13.91 million
6. New York, 13.13 million
7. Kuala Lumpur, 12.58 million
8. Tokyo, 11.93 million
9. Istanbul, 10.7 million
10. Seoul, 9.54 million