Why Dubai is likely to continue to attract members of the world’s rich list

Experts say the emirate is expected to attract HNWIs in the long-term, despite the impact of coronavirus

Dubai will see its number of HNWIs continue to grow because of its response to the pandemic.

Dubai has been named one of the world’s top cities for high net worth individual (HNWI) inflows in 2019 while the UAE is among the 10 destinations of choice for the world’s wealthiest people.

While the outlook for wealth migration of HNWIs in 2020 and 2021 is not as rosy, Dubai is likely to maintain its attractiveness, according to the Global Wealth Migration Report (GWMR).

The report cites concerns that countries with large numbers of wealthy expatriates such as the UAE may see a short-term exodus in 2020-2021.

Its estimates indicate a drop in inward and outward HNWI – defined by the report as individuals with a wealth of $1 million or more – migration for 2020 as many people have been unable or unwilling to move due to the coronavirus outbreak.

It added that Dubai specifically is likely to remain a popular destination for migrating HNWIs in the long term due to its status as the “only real safe-haven in the MENA region”.

Industry experts also believe that Dubai will see its number of HNWIs continue to grow because of its response to the pandemic.

“Dubai is surrounded by emerging markets, many of which have had a massive public health crisis during corona. Dubai, on the other hand, really performed fantastically during coronavirus,” said Mohammed Asaria, founder and managing director at Range Developments, a hospitality developer in the eastern Caribbean engaged in the Citizenship by Investment sphere.

Mohammed Asaria, founder and managing director at Range Developments

“If you are a HNWI and you are seeing that Dubai provides a great quality of life and has great education and healthcare, why would you not move your family to a place that has all those benefits and you can carry on doing your business remotely or travel anywhere very quickly?” asked Asaria.

Asaria said the recently introduced retirement visa is a “fantastic initiative” which will also attract high net worth Europeans to Dubai.

“During the height of the coronavirus crisis, a ventilator was not going to be there for you in Europe if you were above the age of 60. In the UAE, there were no such Draconian limits and a lot of people could have recovered,” said Asaria.

“So a lot of people are looking at Europe and saying they have failed in terms of organisation and in public health and are now in a second lockdown, and then they look at the UAE and they say ‘wow this country has done well,’” he added.

In the report, compiled by wealth intelligence firm New World Wealth, Saudi Arabia was listed among the top 10 countries which experienced an outflow of HNWIs in 2019.

Asaria said his experience with some of his second citizenship clients is in line with these results.

“We do have a number of families, mainly Indians, Pakistanis and Arabs, who live in Saudi Arabia taking on second citizenships in the Caribbean because it provides security,” said Asaria.

“I think people realise that there is a finite end date to your expatriate life in Saudi Arabia and so you need a new solution to carry on,” he added.

Coronavirus has also reshaped what HNWIs from emerging markets are looking for in a second citizenship, said Asaria.

“What’s become really relevant during the corona pandemic is that people in emerging markets aren’t just looking for travel documents as a plan B anymore. They are looking at the ability to relocate to a more mature or a more acceptable country to their risk level,” said Asaria.

“If you are a citizen of Grenada (eastern Caribbean), where we are building our Six Senses La Sagesse project, you have the ability to relocate to the United States in a short amount of time because of a special E2 Visa. So a lot of people are looking at that as a citizenship of choice,” explained Asaria.

Dubai, however, remains the destination of choice for HNWIs from emerging markets in the region. “That is what I am seeing frequently. When people connect with us about investing in the Caribbean, they say the Caribbean passport is great as our citizenship, and the US is good for our children, but we want to be in Dubai.”

Mohammed Asaria.

About the Author

Mohammed Asaria is Managing Director and Board Member of Range Developments, an international luxury hospitality development company that develops luxury resorts in the Eastern Caribbean under Citizenship-by-Investment programs. Mr. Asaria has a dual background in law and investment banking.

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