‘Expo key to visitor growth in Dubai by 2020’

DUBAI could be the most visited city on the planet by 2020 – especially if the bid to bring the Expo to the emirate triumphs.

Global economic expert Dr Yuwa Hedrick-Wong made the statement yesterday after he unveiled MasterCard’s annual Global Destin­ation Cities Index, which showed Dubai has the highest growing percentage of visitor numbers – 11 per cent – within the world’s top 10 most visited cities.

The rankings, which determine top destination cities by the number of international overnight visitors, calculates that 9.89 million people will stay in the emirate for 2013.

Tourist hotspots such as Atlantis help to draw visitors to Dubai

Dr Yuwa, the global economic advisor to MasterCard since 2009, predicts that by 2016 the emirate will have leapfrogged Singapore and Paris – currently fourth and third in the rankings in terms of visitor numbers.

“Expo is the ticket,” said Dr Yuwa. “An event like the Expo is exactly the kind of thing that galvanises attention. China will go crazy organising tour groups and people will be signing up.”

He said a big barrier facing Dubai at the moment is the number of “transit” travellers passing through rather than choosing to enter Dubai.

A big problem is the “two hour wait at immigration” compared to Singapore’s “seamless, visa on arrival, 10-minute pass through immigration”, said the expert.

Asked if Dubai’s ambitious plans to attract 20 million visitors per year by 2020 were feasible, Dr Yuwa replied: “If Dubai can begin to successfully convert transit [travellers] into overnight [visitors] then it’s a no-brainer.”

Bangkok’s 15.98 million visitors saw it become the most visited city on Earth, overtaking London, which was last year’s winner.

Abu Dhabi is ranked the fastest growing city for visitors, with a 16.1 per cent increase last year.

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