70% of UAE consumers to travel in the coming months

  • UAE Especially Popular Destination for Consumers from Oman, KSA, Kuwait and Qatar

Nearly two-thirds (70%) of UAE consumers are set to travel for leisure in the coming months, according to the latest findings of a MasterCard survey. The survey also shows that, when compared to the previous year, 65% of consumers plan to increase or maintain their levels of leisure travel.

The latest survey was conducted from 15 March and 27 April this year with 17,620 consumers from 25 markets . Data collection was via internet surveys, personal, telephone and Computer Aided Telephone interviews, with the questionnaire translated to the local language wherever appropriate and necessary. The Index and its accompanying reports do not represent MasterCard financial performance.

UAE travel is likely to be skewed heavily towards Asia-Pacific in the second half of 2011 with 63% of the respondents aiming to travel to these markets. This is followed by Middle East & Africa (38%) and Europe (16%) as the next most popular destinations. Interestingly, travel to North America is anticipated to be relatively low (1%).

In terms of specific destination countries, India led the pack with 25% of the UAE respondents aiming to travel there in the coming year. This is partly reflective of the large Indian expatriate population in the UAE. Malaysia (12%) and Thailand (12%) also scored high in terms of travel preferences of UAE consumers, as did Syria (12%).

With respect to inbound travel, the UAE continued to be a popular destination of choice for GCC consumers. In Oman, of those inclined to travel internationally, 35% are likely to travel to the UAE in the near future. This is followed by KSA (17%), Kuwait (16%) and Qatar (14%).

“Travelling abroad for leisure is an important priority for many consumers in the UAE. This is especially relevant for the coming months, with Eid and Christmas encouraging many families to holiday abroad. At the same time, we anticipate the UAE to continue to be a popular destination of choice, both globally and regionally. With its attractive variety of retail and hospitality options, we expect GCC consumers in particular to travel to the UAE in high numbers,” said Raghu Malhotra, general manager, Middle East, MasterCard Worldwide.

Amongst other trends in leisure travel, UAE consumers hold the highest preference to travel for relaxation purposes (25%), followed by shopping (22%) and sightseeing (18%). In addition, 72% of them prefer to travel with their families when on vacation, while 21% would like to travel with friends and 7% would choose to travel alone. These figures vary by gender: a greater number of women (87%) prefer to travel with their families compared to men (62%).

The MasterCard survey also sheds light on the financial arrangements of UAE consumers as related to their leisure travel. About 65% of UAE consumers say that they save throughout the year to fund their holidays; whereas 20% use their bonus or increment.

Amongst other spending trends, cash emerged as the most popular payment choice for UAE travellers in relation to accommodation (49%), transportation (46%) and expenses under USD 100 (47%).

Credit cards emerged as the second most popular method of payment for UAE travellers in relation to accommodation (23%), transportation (39%) and expenses under USD 100 (37%). The exception to this trend is the category of expenses over USD 100, for which credit cards are preferred (43%) compared to cash (28%). Debit/ATM cards were less preferred by UAE consumers for all categories.

Malhotra added, “In an increasingly interconnected world, MasterCard understands the importance of travel for global, regional and local economies alike. We also work closely with our customer banks, merchants and business associates to address the needs of today’s travel-savvy consumers. It is critical to recognize their multiple preferences and diverse backgrounds. For instance, are women’s travel preferences somewhat different from men’s? What activities interest families most when they travel? How can the payments industry provide these consumers with safe and convenient ways of paying for their needs from the time they plan their journey to the time they are back at home? The MasterCard survey attempts to provide some of these insights. ”

Other key Middle East findings from the survey include:

  • Saudi consumers (84%) top the list of Middle East consumers aiming to travel for leisure in the coming months. They are followed by consumers in Kuwait (83%), Qatar (80%), Egypt (78%), UAE (70%), Oman (60%) and Lebanon (59%).
  • Within the Middle East countries, three broad trends are seen to emerge with regard to top destinations for leisure travel. For UAE (63%) and Oman (64%), Asia-Pacific emerged as the region attracting most consumers for leisure. For KSA (68%), Egypt (5%), and Kuwait (66%) the Middle East and Africa was the most attractive destination. And in Lebanon (38%) consumers ranked Europe as their most preferred leisure destination.
  • A salient pattern is noticeable in relation to methods of payment for travel-related expenses such as accommodation, transportation, expenses under USD 100 and expenses over USD 100. Overall, across the Middle East markets, consumers tend to prefer cash over credit cards for these expenditures, followed by debit/ATM cards and cheques as third and fourth choices. Qatar is an exception to this trend. Qatari consumers prefer using credit cards over cash for accommodation (32% vs 29%), expenses under USD 100 (35% vs 31%), and expenses over USD 100 (38% vs 16%). Another exception is KSA, where debit/ATM cards, though still dominated by cash, appear to be more popular than credit cards.

When planning finances for their holidays nearly all Middle East consumers prefer to save regularly throughout the year. Qatar is the one exception where more consumers (51%) opt to use their bonus or other increment to fund their travel plans compared to saving through the year (40%).


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