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Savills unveils the Middle East 'Challenger Cities' that offer investors long-term opportunities

Abu Dhabi has been named the most resilient city in the Middle East, according to research by global real estate advisor, Savills. The United Arab Emirates capital featured highest in the Savills Resilient Cities Index, launched as part of its Impacts research programme, which examines which cities will be able to withstand or embrace the technological, demographic, and leadership disruption facing global real estate today and in 10 years’ time.

Figure 1 – Highlighted Middle East Cities by their global resilience ranking, according to Savills






Abu Dhabi












Kuwait City









Courageous investors looking for long-term returns should look to Middle Eastern, Indian and second tier Chinese cities, as the markets that are likely to grow in the face of global disruption in the coming decades, but today remain relatively untapped, says Savills. These regions are home to the ‘challenger cities’ identified in Savills Resilient Cities Index. The report specifically identifies Riyadh and Jeddah as among the eight ‘challenger cities’ that will make the biggest leaps up the ranking in the next decade. New York, Tokyo, London and Los Angeles are the top four most resilient cities today, and will remain so in 2028 according to Savills.

‘Challenger cities’ are poised to compete with established cities by using disruption to their advantage as they are often able to respond faster and more flexibly to swift changes in technology and society, says Savills, and are therefore ones to watch by real estate investors ready to take a long-term view. No contenders from either the US or Europe have been awarded ‘challenger city’ status by Savills, with London and Paris the only European cities ranked within the 20 most Resilient Cities Index.


City (metro area) Country Category Ranking      
      2008 2018 2028 Change in ranking 2018-2028
Hangzhou China Challenger 54 40 29 11
Riyadh Saudi Arabia Challenger 66 44 31 13
Nanjing China Challenger 53 46 32 14
Ningbo China Challenger 57 50 40 10
Delhi India Challenger 166 106 44 62
Mumbai India Challenger 129 80 46 34
Jeddah Saudi Arabia Challenger 130 59 49 10
Bengaluru India Challenger 0 98 50 48


Figure 2 – Challenger Cities, the locations forecast to jump at least 10 places and enter the top 50 Resilient Cities Index by 2028, according to Savills Impacts. N.B Bengaluru wasn’t featured in the 2008 ranking as it had a GDP <$50 bn.


“What our eight challenger cities have in common,” says Sophie Chick, director in Savills world research, “is that they are all likely to see substantial increases in their GDP and growth in household incomes, while their dependency ratios – the proportion of people of a non-working age to those of a working age – will either fall or increase at a lower rate than other major cities between now and 2028. This indicates that they are set to be young, prosperous, and able to adapt to changes in the way the world operates at a faster pace than some better known locations.”


Figure 3 – Savills Resilient Cities Index: the top 20 most resilient cities in the next 10 years, according to Savills Impacts

City (metro area) Country Category Ranking      
      2008 2018 2028 Change in ranking 2018-2028
New York US Resilient 1 1 1 0
Tokyo Japan Resilient 2 2 2 0
London UK Resilient 3 3 3 0
Los Angeles US Resilient 4 4 4 0
Shanghai China Emerging Resilient 23 11 5 6
Chicago US Resilient 5 5 6 -1
Beijing China Emerging Resilient 24 14 7 7
Paris  France Resilient 6 6 8 -2
Shenzhen China New Resilient 20 13 9 4
Dallas US Resilient 10 8 10 -2
Washington US Resilient 7 7 11 -4
Guangzhou China Emerging Resilient 35 21 12 9
Singapore Singapore Resilient 15 9 13 -4
San Francisco US Resilient 9 10 14 -4
Houston US Resilient 12 12 15 -3
Philadelphia US Resilient 11 15 16 -1
Tianjin China Emerging Resilient 40 26 17 9
Boston US Resilient 13 16 18 -2
Suzhou China Emerging Resilient 47 30 19 11
Jakarta Indonesia Emerging Resilient 103 51 20 31


Simon Hope, head of global capital markets at Savills, comments: “The list of the world’s top global cities may feel like it’s almost set in stone, but, as is becoming apparent, disruption is on the menu and we are set to see some sweeping changes to the way society functions and how businesses operate in the next 10 years. For real estate investors, our Resilient Cities Index shows that the long-established global cities will withstand much in the next decade, which is why they’ve seen high levels of investment as they are perceived as ‘safe havens’ for capital, with the top 10 global destinations for both domestic and cross-border capital in 2018 reflecting this old world order. However, as a result, their real estate assets have become correspondingly expensive and highly sought after.

“As such, our eight ‘challenger cities’ may offer alternative investment destinations. While not without risk, these cities are set to accelerate up the ranks as they demonstrate their resilience to the challenges ahead and investors should start investigating how to secure a footing in these markets if they’re willing to sit tight and take a long-term view.”

Paul Tostevin, director in Savills world research, adds: “All our ‘challenger city’ contenders are from China, India and the Middle East. While some of these, such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Riyadh and Jeddah are known internationally, they are generally yet to make it onto the global real estate investors’ radar. Those in China - Hangzhou, Nanjing and Ningbo - aren’t well known at all, despite having large populations. What all of them have in common, however, is that they have young populations, are increasing in prosperity and should be able to swiftly pivot in response to the disruption lying ahead.”

Further information about Savills Impacts research CLICK HERE

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