Can Dubai beat London to become the world's most visited city?

By David Flynn, June 6 2014
Can Dubai beat London to become the world's most visited city?

TALKING POINT | Is Dubai's plan to become the world’s most visited city a laudable goal or a laughable dream?

The Gulf boomtown and Qantas' international hub, courtesy of its partnership with Emirates, needs to exceed 16 million visitors a year to push London off the top of the tourist ladder – and airport transits don't count.

With the current tally standing at 11 million hotel guests in 2013 the city's challenge, suggests Sydney Morning Herald travel columnist Jane E. Fraser, is that Dubai "is a must-see but somewhere you only need to visit once."

"Once you’ve seen the architecture, cruised the waterways, visited the souks, been on a desert safari and gawped at one of the massive shopping malls, you’ve pretty much 'done' it", she continues. "I'm just not sure there’s enough to entice me back in a hurry."

The "largely manufactured attractions of Dubai" also come up short compared to the history and vibe of London and Paris, Fraser writes.

"London and Paris feel like they’re there for the people who live there rather than tourists, while Dubai feels like it’s been put there to impress."

Emirates reports that an additional 360,000 Australians have visited Dubai following its April 2013 hookup with Qantas.

But while Dubai doesn't need to forego its role as a stopover city on the way to Europe to become a destination in its own right, can it tempt travellers to repeatedly break their journey on successive trips?

In early 2013 Qantas ran its own poll of the most popular stopover city for flights to Europe, and reported that Australian travellers rated Singapore above Dubai and Hong Kong.

64% put Singapore at the top of the list, followed by Dubai at 61% and Hong Kong  at 60%.

(That high ranking for Dubai raised a few skeptical eyebrows because the survey was taken before the Qantas-Emirates partnership took flight, so at the time of the poll no Qantas flights were travelling via Dubai.)

Given that Australian travellers have now had over a year of flying on the Qantas/Emirates network and potentially breaking their journey in Dubai, how do you rate Dubai's chances to become the world's most visited city? And has it overtaken the old Qantas hub of Singapore as your preferred stopover to Europe?

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Mar 2014

Total posts 204

No - in a word!

Have visited on a stopover, once was enough. Very hot (was there in july) and not overly tourist friendly (ie cant even walk along the road). Very little to do (unless shopping malls are your thing). I would go back to many cities in Europe, Asia, USA.

Dubai, wouldnt waste my time.

undertheradar Banned
undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 650

I totally agree... Dubai isn't a 'destination''s a 'transit' point to get 'elsewhere'... unless you're doing 'business' in Dubai... it doesn't have a 'soul'...pretty much why I wouldn't stay in many other 'soul less' places around the world..

of course this is my opinion

undertheradar Banned
undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 650

i suppose will people go...'to see what all the hype is about'...but once is enough for me


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1513

Agree. Just very expensive shopping. Cannot get why bother – plenty of exciting destination around globe. Even as transit it sitting on bottom of my list.

04 May 2014

Total posts 4

Have stopped over 4 times now.. and the reason I will not fly Qantas/Emirates to Europe again.. No way on earth is this a tourist spot...not a pleasant place..

Don't believe the hype

therealqueen Banned
therealqueen Banned

19 May 2014

Total posts 40

Dubai is a toilet stop.

its an opportunity to refresh in first lounge have shower and a decent cr... then get back on plane and get the hell out of there.

Truly one of the worst cities in the world!

16 May 2014

Total posts 99

It could beat London as a transit hub, not a tourist one tho.

The airport was enough for me, confusing signs, no help... pretty but a bit too chaotic to want me to go back

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Sep 2013

Total posts 466

I would avoid booth,but never fly BA.


It would be funnier if it wasn't so rediculous.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Sep 2013

Total posts 466

Went to a US p1 lounge invit.TRB first day of operations at the LAX lounge is june 16 if your pass on thu.

Thanks Robert. Unfortunately passing through only in the next couple of days!  

Looking forward to the reviews on AUSBT!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jun 2013

Total posts 366

Never!!! I Agree with the others,Dubai is a transit point  from Australia not a destination .where as London is a destination and the financial centre for Europe ..


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 May 2012

Total posts 76

This is where HKG,SIN, KUL, BKK and even CAN beat the middle east hands down, people actually want to stop in Asia. The food, the weather, beer and cheap 5Star hotels. Whats not to like!

Dubai is too try hard and it shows. Nothing is more off putting than a lack of authenticity.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Sep 2012

Total posts 240

I stayed at the Sofitel down on Jumeirah Beach and its' great down there. It faced the beach with a nice promenade of restaurants, cafes etc right in front. I'd go for a wander by the beach every morning and the pool overlooked the sea. There were some great beach bars close by at the Hilton and Sheraton. I had a very relaxing long weekend.

Thankfully I didn't stay downtown. It's filled with big name hotels but they're mostly on the side of the large 10 lane freeway that intersects Dubai city. Had I stayed there my impression of Dubai would have been totally different and I doubt I'd even consider returning.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

14 Jan 2014

Total posts 342

Know this part of the world quite well, having lived in Bahrain and with family currently living in Abu Dhabi (and formally Dubai itself).

Always found Dubai tacky I must admit.  Much prefer Abu Dhabi. It's more restrained and seems to be much more measured in the way it's seeking development.

British AIrways

08 Feb 2011

Total posts 22

I know some (sane) people who visit Dubai a few times every winter; the weather is nice, it's easily reachable and it's comfortable.  The closest place to Europe during the winter where the weather is nice.

But weather or being comfortable is the worst reason to go to London.  London is a great city, as are most cities of it's size, but having been there countless times I would rather go elsewhere in Europe instead.  People from english speaking countries often prefer London but they miss a lot by not going elsewhere in Europe.

American Airlines - AAdvantage

15 Feb 2013

Total posts 45

Dubai is #1 on my least favourite places to visit. 50 degrees for half the year, and an uncomfortable feeling that you may be arrested for something minor and locked for years, without being charged. Singapore, HK and Bangkok have the food, culture, shopping, amenities and activities that would keep me coming back any day compared to Dubai.

31 Oct 2012

Total posts 4

Dubai is the epitome of superficialness! It is the microcosm of shallow and meaningless human endeavors! Okay, before folks class me as a "Dubai Envy", we must make this clear: Dubai (and all Gulf cities on the Peninsula) have no existing indigenous culture (besides Islam) before the discovery of oil. Moreover, their attempt to "westernize and open" has truly failed their reputation, as they simply cannot break-free from conservatism and devotion to Islam, therefore, they're trying to have everything (with a touch of bling) whilst, socially and culturally, it is stuck at a time of the Bedouin tribal periods.

In other words; NO. Even the dullest Washington DC puts Dubai to shame! 

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