Dubai is the number one city for executive nomads; Abu Dhabi takes fourth place

Dubai has emerged as the top destination of choice for remote workers who have ranked the city high for its quality of life, air connectivity and digital infrastructure.

The emirate scored 34.18 points on the Savills Executive Nomad Index, which grades 20 of the most desirable destinations around the world, based on their appeal and ease of access for long-term remote workers.

Dubai wasn’t the only city from the UAE that scored high on the list; Abu Dhabi is making its first-time entry on the index, coming in at fourth place with a score of 31.12.

Lisbon, which topped last year’s rankings, dropped to fifth place due to soaring rents in the Portuguese capital. Rents in prime residential areas grew by 5.4% in Dubai during the first half of 2023, while Lisbon saw a 13.9% rise over the same period, according to the real estate services company.

Andalucian economic capital Malaga came second on the index, with the cosmopolitan city getting a boost following the launch of Spain’s digital nomad visa in 2022. Miami came in at number three, being the only US city to make it to the list.

Remote and hybrid working has been gaining ground over the past few years, with a report by American technological research and consulting firm Gartner projecting that by the end of 2023, 39% of global knowledge workers will work hybrid, with remote workers representing 9% of all employees worldwide.  

Destination Dubai

Dubai, which ranked third on the Savills index last year, has been growing in popularity with workers and corporates that have embraced a more hybrid work culture following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dubai was one of the first cities in the Gulf to capitalise on this growing demand for a hybrid setup by introducing its digital nomad visa scheme in March 2021.

The popularity of the one-year virtual working programme, which allows individuals and business owners who meet a certain criterion to live and work in the city, catapulted Dubai to second place in the 2021 Nomad List, a separate study featuring the world’s fastest-growing remote working destinations, with 150,275 user check ins recorded that year.

With Dubai attracting a growing talent pool, the city’s emerging fintech and financial services sectors are also proving to be powerful magnets for executive nomads.

“Many have been impacted by layoffs across global tech firms,” said Swapnil Pillai, Savills Middle East associate director of research. “They are exploring the city as a base to support these thriving sectors.”

Pillai described these workers as dual income individuals, with no kids, who favour high-end residential buildings in Downtown Dubai, close to DIFC, or in Dubai Marina for proximity to Dubai Media City and Internet City.

“Most of the city’s co-working spaces are operating at near 100% occupancy, which supports Dubai’s ranking as a top destination for executive nomads,” Pillai said.

Abu Dhabi’s appeal

As a new entrant this year, the report states Abu Dhabi has proved to be particularly popular with Northern European executive nomads who are taking advantage of the emirate’s remote working visa, along with the chance for a long-term investment with a golden visa scheme that is proving attractive for property investors, along with global talent in the creative industries, financial services, and start-ups.

“Abu Dhabi has become far more outward-looking in the last two years and there is so much on offer now, including Yas Island, a huge leisure destination, and Saadiyat Island, where you have the Louvre and the Guggenheim, which is due to open in 2025,” said Stephen Forbes, Savills head of Abu Dhabi.

He added: “Abu Dhabi’s Free Zones, which offer various incentives to companies, make the city far more attractive to corporate entities now, too.”




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