Dubai City Attractiveness, Its Brand Strength and Reputation

Dubai, a leading hub of the Middle East, boasts a strong international cultural exchange between locals, tourists and sojourners seeking an alternative, near-futuristic lifestyle in a glimmering city which strives to be the biggest and best. But how does Dubai’s city brand appeal to international investors and talent, in terms of its actual quality of life and urban sustainability?

Let’s take a closer look at: 

  • Dubai’s talent competitiveness and financial performance
  • Dubai’s brand strength and global reputation
  • Livability: Dubai’s appeal for residents

With thanks to our friends and knowledge partners Bloom Consulting, 2thinknow and Resonance Consulting for supporting our city profiles by contributing latest research insights and benchmarking data.


Dubai’s talent competitiveness and financial performance

How attractive is Dubai as a place to work and do business?

The Global Talent Competitiveness Index ranks Dubai 51st overall, attributing it high marks for attracting talent, but significantly lower marks for growing and retaining it. This stark difference between attract and grow/retain can be attributed to the strong appeal of Dubai to high potentials who, once there, face a reality that might not suit their desired long-term lifestyle.

Dubai lands within the top ten of the Saffron City Brand Barometer, scoring highest in terms of business brands, also earning top marks for both assets and buzz. Positioned between Chicago (7th) and Boston (9th), the study refers to these cities as:

Strong asset scores thanks to high ratings on GDP per Capita PP, ease of starting and doing business and, to some extent, quality of life.

The Global Financial Centres Index ranks Dubai 12th, with solid performance in the areas of human capital (10th), infrastructure (12th) and financial sector development (13th). Considered a global leader among cities such as London, New York and Shanghai, Dubai is the best performer of the Middle East, followed by Tel Aviv (36th) and Abu Dhabi (39th).


Dubai’s brand strength and global appeal

Which factors hurt and help the brand of Dubai?

Resonance Consultancy‘s World’s Best Cities Report ranks Dubai 6th overall, with its strongest subfactors being place (3rd), people (2nd) and promotion (4th). We can associate Dubai’s weakest performing subfactor, product (81st) with the above results from the Global Talent Competitiveness Index – hinting at a discrepancy in perception and reality of appeal and offer. The product of the place, according to Resonance, is the ranking of the “hardware” of a city, including infrastructure and institutions such as attractions, museums, and university rankings.

Kearney’s 2019 Global Cities Report ranks Dubai 27th, two positions up since last year’s publication. Dubai is leading the index for the metric of infrastructure, shining as the new leader in 2019.

2thinknow’s Innovation Cities Index ranks Dubai 31st, behind Amsterdam (30th) and ahead of Stockholm (32nd). Dubai saw a jump in ranking of two positions, while both Amsterdam and Stockholm experienced a dip in ranking of 11 and 4 positions respectively.

The comprehensive ranking of the Global Power City Index seats Dubai 19th, with a strong performance in cultural interaction (6th), taking in consideration the number of foreign visitors and residents alongside the number of luxury hotel rooms and other, similar variables. For instance, Dubai ranks 9th globally for nightlife options, just behind Berlin (7th) and Madrid (8th).

Another of Dubai’s top performing assets is accessibility (9th), easy to understand given its geographical location and wide-ranging airport connectivity – though also measured via commute time and traffic congestion.

According to the index, Dubai has room for improvement in areas such as environment (42nd), research & development (39th) and livability (28th).

The Digital City Index by Bloom Consulting names Dubai number one worldwide, with no variation since the previous ranking in 2017. Dubai scores the second position in both investment and talent but lands the first spot in tourism. Results show that the wide majority of searches within the field of talent are for work (73%) with only 8% for study and 19% for live.


Livability: Dubai’s appeal for digital nomads and locals

Which aspects of Dubai make it an attractive place to live, work and study?

The Mercer Quality of Living City Ranking places Dubai 74th, ahead of Budapest (76th), Seoul (77th) and nearby neighbor Abu Dhabi (78th). Mercer’s Cost of Living Ranking puts Dubai 21st, behind Moscow. The cost living survey reports that factors such as currency fluctuations, cost inflation for goods and services, and instability of accommodation prices are key to determine the cost of expat packages for employees on international assignment.

Dubai ranks 34th out of the world’s best & worst cities for expats, according to the Expat Insider Ranking 2019. Contrary to other mentions, in this study Dubai ranks quite well in terms of quality of urban living (29th) though faced with a harsher urban work life ranking of 71st.

Less than half of the expats who reported on Dubai are happy with their work-life balance, taking into consideration variables such as job & career, job security and work-life balance – all of which contribute to the overall poor score.

Meanwhile, a few top performances can be seen through safety & politics (11th) and getting settled (17th), with an excellent response in terms of ranking for ease of living there without speaking the local language. Additionally, 71% of expats consider the locals to be friendly towards foreign residents and 53% find it easy to make new friends.

Spot a Home’s Healthiest Cities list ranks Dubai 62nd, behind Cape Town (60th) and Milan (61st), just ahead of Houston (63rd) and Paris (64th).

The Nomad List scores Dubai only moderately well, with many subfactors achieving only ‘okay’. The two factors which score a ‘bad’ rating are nightlife and LGBTQ+ friendly, while walkability and places to work from score a ‘great’ rating. It’s interesting to note the difference in methodologies per report as Dubai ranks rather strongly according to the GPCI in terms of nightlife options.


Last updated in July 2020.


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