Dubai is expected to leapfrog New York, Rome and Barcelona in numbers of arrivals this year, according to a new study from MasterCard.
Dubai makes the world's top 10
Dubai is expected to be among the world's top 10 cities for business and tourism arrivals this year, beating traditional destinations such as Rome and New York, according to MasterCard Worldwide.
In the credit card company's inaugural Index of Global Destination Cities, Dubai ranked as the leading destination in the Middle East with 7.9 million visitors. Abu Dhabi came in sixth place for the Middle East and Africa.
Dubai is also expected to attract the greatest expenditure from travellers in the region at US$7.8 billion (Dh28.64bn), a rise of 24 per cent on last year.
"Dubai really doesn't have a close competitor today [in the Middle East]," said Dr Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, global economic adviser for MasterCard Worldwide. "And Dubai is very important as an origin city itself for many of the other regional cities."
MasterCard compiled its index by analysing arrivals and subtracting returning residents and transit passengers. London topped the list, followed by Paris and Bangkok.
Among US cities, only New York featured in the top 20 for visitors, although it ranked second worldwide for traveller spending.
Dubai is expected to attract many more new arrivals, with a 17.3 per cent increase in travellers between last year and this year.
Visitor numbers to Abu Dhabi are expected to grow by 15.5 per cent this year, with travellers from Manchester expected to surge by 46.2 per cent.
The English city is expected to become the ninth-ranking departure spot for visitors to Abu Dhabi, some of which can be attributed to its links with the football club Manchester City. Creating such links are key factors for cities looking to put themselves on the world map, Dr Hedrick-Wong added.
"The soft connection is crucial," he said.
For travellers from Beijing, who account for Dubai's third-largest source of visitors, the emirate is not only the easiest place in the UAE to visit, but also provides a taste of the region without having to visit the entire Middle East, Dr Hedrick-Wong added.