Visa (NYSE:V), the global payments technology company, launched their latest Global Travel Intentions Study 2015 which has revealed that the UAE is the most popular destination for travellers from the Middle East and Africa (MENA) region.
Ranking ahead of Egypt and Turkey, the Study shows that 16 percent of the 1,637 respondents from MENA chose UAE as their most favoured travel destination within the region in 2015. The UAE also remains among the top destination choices for global travellers over the next year.
The regular barometer of travel trends from Visa Inc. was launched at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, and surveyed 13,603 travellers across 25 countries in January and February 2015
The regular barometer of travel trends from Visa revealed that future travel sentiment from the Middle East and Africa looks very positive with 81 percent of people surveyed from the region planning to travel for leisure in the next year. Travellers from the UAE especially as prolific travellers with 95 percent of respondents saying they will travel for leisure in the next year.
This positivity bodes well for the region’s travel industry. Great scenery, interesting attractions and good shopping are the top three drivers for individuals from MENA who are planning their next vacation. Budget is no longer the primary driving factor when choosing a holiday destination.
“Our latest Visa Global Travel Intentions Study is shining a very positive light on the region and UAE’s industry and what’s interesting to see is that people from this region are serious about their leisure time. People from the MEA region holiday for an average of 13 nights per trip – which is more than the global average, and travellers from Saudi Arabia and Egypt put aside the largest travel budgets per trip,” said Marcello Baricordi, General Manager UAE and Global Accounts Lead at Visa MENA.
“Leisure is a serious business and insights of this kind are invaluable in our collaboration with the travel, hospitality and leisure sectors, and to understand individual traveler sentiments. We have been publishing the Visa Global Travel Intentions Study since 2006 and it has become a valuable tool to help the industry make informed decisions that bring significant benefits to the wider travel industry and individual travellers,” he added.
Big Spenders in the MENA Region
While globally, respondents say they put aside a median travel budget of US$ 2,281 per trip, those from the MENA region report they will spend substantially more. Of the 25 countries surveyed, travellers from Saudi Arabia said they spend the most – a median of US$ 5,866 per trip – closely followed by Egyptians at US$ 4,917 in second place and Chinese travellers at $US 4,780 in third. Travellers from the UAE put aside a median travel budget of US$ 2,518 per trip which is higher than the global median.
The study also found strong use of payment cards throughout a holiday – both to plan and pay before one leaves and to pay for activities during a holiday. In the planning stage, cards are the most preferred way to pay for holidays with 46 percent of global travellers using only cards at that stage. While at their destination, eight out of 10 global travellers (81 percent) use a combination of cards and cash to pay.
Marcello Baricordi added, “The convenience, security and benefits that payment cards offer are aspects that travellers really value. Our Study showed that 61 percent of UAE travellers prefer to use cards across all merchants when they are at their destination. In fact while globally, 29 percent of travellers said they would spend more if they are able to use cards more frequently and at more merchants, 33 percent of UAE travellers would use their cards more frequently.”
“Considering the travel industry generated 10 percent of global GDP in 2014, and this is expected to grow by 3.7 percent in 2015 , this is an important message for merchants, governments and industry partners. Our Study also revealed that 54 percent of MENA travellers prefer Visa when it comes to making overseas payments – higher than the global average. On our part, we want to partner with the industry to improve electronic payment acceptance across all aspects of the travel industry and make travel as easy, convenient and enjoyable as possible for all travellers around the world,” he concluded.
Going It Alone – The Rise of the Solo Traveler and the ‘Wander Woman’
Exploring the world at your own pace and schedule is increasingly popular as up to 24 percent of global travellers are now opting to travel alone compared to 15 percent in 2013. This is even more prevalent among the affluent and first time travellers, with the Study also noting the concept of the “Wander Woman” becoming more popular as an increasing number of women choose solo vacations.
Solo travel is a long-standing trend for travellers from the MENA region with 26 per cent travelling solo in 2015. While about three out of 10 travellers (31 percent) from the UAE and Egypt are likely to travel solo, Moroccans are the biggest solo travellers from the region at 36 percent. These MENA solo travellers have a tendency to have defined travel plans with 83 percent of them already having decided on their destination before they start to plan their holidays.