London - Forget sipping a glass of wine on the terrace of the Opera House beside Sydney Harbour - an online poll reveals that the world's travellers would much rather be drinking orange juice on the Corniche in Abu Dhabi.
The market-research organisation Ipsos has conducted its first poll to find “The World's Favourite City”. In February, more than 18 000 “global citizens” in 24 countries were asked to rate cities as places to do business in, to live in, and to visit.
New York beat London and Paris to the overall top spot.
Ben Page, chief executive of Ipsos, revealed the results of the poll at the Foreign Press Association in London. He said: “There are a handful of 'superbrand' cities. New York is the clear leader, but London and Paris, in joint second place, do very well indeed.”
Mr Page described Zurich as “the surprise star,” saying that Switzerland's largest city is “The place the world's public would most like to live”.
Yet eyebrows were raised when Sydney was soundly beaten into fifth place by Abu Dhabi. Destination New South Wales, which promotes Sydney worldwide, refused to comment on the results of the survey. Hong Kong, Singapore and Amsterdam also lagged well behind the UAE capital.
In tourism terms, Abu Dhabi has long been in the shadow of the neighbouring emirate, Dubai. Abu Dhabi has four flights a day from London, while Dubai has 14. In Lonely Planet's 224-page Dubai & Abu Dhabi guide, only seven pages are devoted to the latter. However, Abu Dhabi is planning a world-class cultural hub, with a branch of the Louvre expected to open 2015. It will be followed soon afterwards by the inauguration of a Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.
Saudi Arabia's votes were critical to the success of Abu Dhabi, with the strongest showing for any city in the survey. But there was also support for the UAE capital from surprising quarters. Brazilians preferred Abu Dhabi to Rio, and said they would rather visit the Gulf city than London or Los Angeles. Spanish people would rather live in Abu Dhabi than Madrid. British respondents in the survey expressed a preference for living in Abu Dhabi ahead of both Paris and Los Angeles.
The Foreign Office points out that the UAE is a conservative nation, with some “serious penalties for doing something that might not be illegal in the UK”. Punishable offences include homosexuality, sex outside marriage and public displays of affection.
Studying the voting pattern from individual countries in the survey reveals an element of Eurovision-style block voting, combined with national pride.
Indonesians voted overwhelmingly for neighbouring Singapore. According to the Japanese, the best cities to live in are Tokyo and Osaka. Australians and Canadians voted strongly for Sydney and Toronto respectively. The French did much the same for Paris, though they conceded that London is a far better city in which to do business. British voters rated New York, London and Sydney as the top three cities.
Ipsos' singling out of “The World's Least-Popular Cities” is also controversial. Mr Page said: “Across the 24 countries covered, Karachi gets nil points, with Tehran, Tel Aviv and Warsaw barely troubling the scorer.” - The Independent
1 New York
4 Abu Dhabi
8 Hong Kong
9 Los Angeles