DUBAI — The UAE is ranked No.1 in the Middle East for having the most advanced travel and tourism sector, according to Visa’s latest “Tourism Outlook: UAE” report.
The study stated that in 2011, 8.2 million overseas visitors sought out the UAE as a holiday destination, although this was 8.8 per cent lower than the previous year’s nine million visitors.
According to VisaVue Travel Data, international Visa account holders spent $4 billion on their cards, while in the UAE a 28.7 per cent increase was indicated over 2010. It is vital to remember that despite the volatility in the Middle East due to the Arab Spring in 2011, which saw the number of tourists in the region as a whole drop by seven per cent in 2011, the UAE emerged as a safe haven in the region and continued to attract international visitors, according to the report.
In addition to strong tourist arrival figures, the UAE recorded its highest ever number of inbound and outbound flights in 2011 at 683,389 up 7.6 per cent on the previous year.
Dubai International Airport recorded the highest air traffic movements within the UAE (312,009 in 2011), with December listed as its busiest month (28,229 air traffic movements).
The report uses actual Visa card spend data to aggregate information about visitors — where they are coming from, how much they are spending and what they are buying.
“Such information has helped us develop and refine several strategic partnerships with leading retailers such as the Jumeirah Group, Atlantis Resorts, Emirates and Visa’s sponsorship of the iconic Dubai Shopping Festival [DSF] — a partnership that we have fostered for 16 years. As a staunch supporter of the UAE’s tourism industry, Visa is committed to helping merchants, the government and other stakeholders promote the UAE as one of the best tourism and shopping destinations in the world,” said Marcello Baricordi, general manager of Visa in the UAE.
VisaVue Travel Data research during DSF 2012, showed the total inbound on Visa card spend in the UAE between January 5 and February 5 came to more than $497 million compared to just over $406 million during the DSF 2011 period (January 20 to February 20) — equal to a year-on-year increase of 22 per cent.
As this year’s Tourism Outlook: UAE report shows, established source markets continue to lead the way in terms of spending in the UAE, although new markets are coming through, with significant growth in travellers coming from countries such as Angola and Saudi Arabia.
“Travellers from the UK top the list of international spenders for the second year, with expenditure growing by 11 per cent year-on-year, from $441.2 million in 2010 to $489.5 million in 2011. This is a sure sign of the UAE’s popularity among Brits continuing to grow despite ongoing economic uncertainty,” said Baricordi.
Meanwhile, spending from Russian Visa cardholders continues to increase at a significant rate to $342.5 million, up a staggering 43.9 per cent on the 2010 figure. This growth is fuelled by ongoing expansion of airlines such as flydubai and Emirates, and the commitment of the UAE’s wider tourism to maximise its appeal to Russian tourists, such as hotel groups and world-class attractions.
“The good news is that this trend is not exclusive to Russia, prominent new routes are opening on a regular basis to further expand the UAE’s international connections. We are seeing a number of routes into the likes of China and the US, making the UAE even more accessible than ever to international tourists. Whether it is for a short stop off or an extended stay, travellers cannot resist the UAE’s growing appeal as a destination,” added Baricordi.