UK travellers top in big spenders list in UAE

Visa says Saudi Arabia, Angola and China showed the most impressive spending growth

United Kingdom travellers retained their position as the biggest spender in the UAE, the latest research from Visa, one the world’s leading payment solutions providers, revealed.

UK was closely followed by Russia and the United States. Visa account holders from these three countries alone spent a total of $1.2 billion on Visa debit and credit cards during 2011 - almost a third (29.7 percent) of total tourism spend in the UAE.

Visa’s report compares tourism receipts from across the UAE in 2010 and 2011. This year’s report highlights the increase in spend from developing markets in the UAE, with the most impressive growth recorded in Angola which was up 89.1 per cent to $166.1 million. Visitors from Saudi Arabia contributed $326.3 million spend on their Visa cards in 2011, up 73.8 per cent from the previous year. Chinese Visa account holders spent 72.6 per cent more year-on-year with a total of $225.1 million spent in 2011.

This increase in visitors and spend from new source markets supports Dubai’s increasingly strong position as a global hub, with airlines including Emirates, flydubai, Etihad and Air Arabia making the UAE more accessible to global travelers than ever before.

Somewhat surprisingly, given its proximity to the UAE and increased spending power among its growing middle class, India only recorded an 11.5 per cent increase to $141.3 million.

Most regions saw an increase in the average receipt size, which was up 4.8 percent overall to $255, a positive sign that consumer confidence is on the increase around the globe. Chinese Visa account holders especially were spending more while visiting the UAE, with the highest increase in average transaction spend – up 29.1 per cent to just over $700 per transaction.

While spending in general merchandise accounted for the most spend - $1.2 billion spent in the ‘Other Retail’ category that includes purchases on clothes, music, antiques and jewellery -  the merchant segment that recorded the greatest year-on-year growth was the ‘steamships and cruise lines’ category with a staggering 641.2 percent increase from the previous year. This could potentially reflect the boom in the UAE cruising industry as it becomes a prime destination for cruising tourism.

Department stores (35.8 per cent), and ‘other travel and entertainment’ (31.3 per cent) were also among the fastest-growing categories.

November held the top spot for the second year running for the most amount spent with an impressive $449.9 million spent (up 27.9 per cent on the previous year).

Marcello Baricordi, General Manager for Visa in the UAE, said: “As the world’s largest retail electronic payments network, Visa is in a unique position to provide insight into where and how visitors are spending their money. Our proprietary processing network allows us to analyse Visa data to identify global tourism spending insights. We use these insights to provide useful market data and intelligence to businesses to improve product offerings and marketing strategies that can best attract visitors and strengthen tourism competitiveness.”

Baricordi said: “This year’s results made interesting reading as established markets still retain their allure, while developing countries are growing fast and looking for ways to spend their money. It’s also noticeable how Russia, China and the US are starting to become more prominent, as airlines such as flydubai and Emirates expand their networks and consumers are increasingly coming to the UAE to take advantage of the luxury goods market.”

Turning Visa transaction data into useful business information is one way Visa delivers value to businesses and countries where tourism sectors are strong contributors to the domestic economy. Visa’s role in tourism the world over is ensuring travellers can make purchases and payments securely, conveniently and reliably.

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