International Visa cardholders spent AED22.8 billion ($6.2 billion) with their cards while visiting the UAE in 2018, a 4 percent year-on-year increase, it was announced on Monday.
According to the latest UAE Travel Snapshot released by Visa, travelers visiting the UAE have increased their spend on Visa cards, indicating a positive uptick on the local economy.
The total number of Visa card transactions by visitors to the UAE also grew by 22 percent when compared to the previous year.
Shahebaz Khan, UAE general manager – Visa, said: “Transactions growing much faster than spend suggests the UAE’s increasing appeal as a leading global destination for both mass and niche tourism.
“The UAE dirham being pegged to the US dollar, which saw strong performance in most of 2018, made the UAE more expensive for international travelers during the period we looked at for this report. Despite this, the UAE remained an attractive tourist destination for international travelers.”
Visa noted a 11 percent increase year-on-year in the number of internationally-issued Visa cards used in the UAE. In terms of top source markets, visitors from Saudi Arabia, the United States, United Kingdom, China, Russia, Kuwait, India, Oman, Bahrain and Australia accounted for 68 percent of the total tourism spend.
From the UAE’s top 10 source markets, tourism spend by Russian visitors saw the highest annual growth of 13 percent. Meanwhile visitors from Saudi Arabia remained the biggest spenders with total expenditure of AED4.9 billion, an increase of 9 percent.
The results of Visa’s UAE Travel Snapshot showed travelers are increasingly relying on card payments for transactions of various sizes, suggesting increasing preference for the security and convenience of digital payments.
In 2018, the government announced a series of initiatives to boost tourism, including promotion of family tourism using the timeshare system, reducing the tourism fee, introducing a VAT refund scheme for tourists and streamlining tourism visa regulations to attract first-time and repeat tourists.
Merchant categories that saw growth during the period of study included restaurants (up 30 percent), airlines (up 9 percent), and fashion apparel and accessories (up 9 percent).
The luxury goods sector saw a decrease of 10 percent while leisure and entertainment remained flat.
Visa cardholders recorded the highest value of tourism receipts during the traditional UAE travel season, between November 2017 and April 2018, peaking in December and January for both years.