Dubai has ranked seventh in a new list of the top 100 destinations in the world, placing it ahead of New York and Tokyo.
The rankings, compiled by Euromonitor International, are based on annual tourism arrivals and recorded Dubai as having 15.79m visitors in 2017, which is projected to rise to 16.65m this year based on part-year data - a rise of 5.5 per cent.
This placed it as the top destination in the Middle East and Africa, ahead of Mecca in second and Johannesburg in third.
Abu Dhabi was placed 10th in the region and 95th globally with projected arrival growth of 7.1 per cent this year.
The UAE capital rose 42 places in the rankings between 2012 and 2017 having ramped up its tourism offerings and hosted a number of international sporting events.
The report noted Dubai's legislative changes including new visa-upon-arrival policies, no charge for transit tourists for up to 48 hour stays and optional extended-stay visas for up to 96 hours as it aims to welcome 20 million visitors to the emirate by the year 2020.
It added that it is "questionable" as to whether the recent diplomatic dispute between Saudi Arabia and Turkey over Jamal Khashoggi will have an impact on Saudi's arrivals "as the country is heavily focused on religious tourism".
"Saudi Arabia - as well as the UAE - are actively diversifying their tourism offering, targeting family and group travellers seeking experiential travel, and solo travellers seeking health and wellness or adventure. While Dubai and Abu Dhabi are by far the largest destinations in the UAE, dispersal to other emirates is increasingly promoted."
The UAE was recently named the world’s second safest place to visit, according to Which? Travel, which ranked the world’s top 20 holiday destinations using data collated by the World Economic Fund, the World Risk Report, NHS Fit for Travel website and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) terrorism assessment risk to assess their overall safety. Iceland came first.
Another study, by Numbeo, named Abu Dhabi as the safest city in the world for the second year running.
Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt and Tunisia's Jerba and Sousse have dropped out of the Euromonitor top 100 rankings due to terrorism fears. Thirty British holiday makers were killed at Sousse in an attack in 2015, although tourism is now on an upward trajectory in the country.
Cities to watch
Euromonitor picked out four cities as ones to watch on the back of significant arrivals growth.
Mumbai is predicted to have arrivals growth of 19 per cent this year after 25 per cent growth in 2017. Porto, new to the top 100, rose 42 places between 2012 and 2017, while Osaka has jumped 113 places during the same period and is expected to benefit from the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The fourth city is Jerusalem with arrivals predicted to grow 38 per cent this year.
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