Finance & Capital Market

Visa cardholders spend $6.2bn in the UAE

Travellers visiting the UAE have increased their spend on Visa cards, indicating a positive uptick on the local economy, according to the latest UAE Travel Snapshot released by Visa, the world leader in digital payments,

Covering the period of January-December 2018 versus the same period in 2017, the report shows international Visa cardholders spent Dh22.8 billion ($6.2 billion) with their cards while visiting the UAE in 2018, a 4 per cent year-on-year (YoY) increase.

The total number of Visa card transactions by visitors to the UAE also grew by 22 per cent when compared to the previous year. As a market leader with the largest share of cards in the UAE, Visa’s analysis is based on a sample highly representative of overall spending trends.

Shahebaz Khan, UAE general manager - Visa, commented: “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 travellers during the period we looked at for this report. Despite this, the UAE remained an attractive tourist destination for international travellers.”

Visa noted an 11 per cent 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 US, UK, China, Russia, Kuwait, India, Oman, Bahrain and Australia accounted for 68 per cent of the total tourism spend. From the UAE's top 10 source markets, tourism spend by Russian visitors saw the highest year-on-year growth of 13 per cent. Meanwhile, visitors from Saudi Arabia remained the biggest spenders with a total expenditure of Dh4.9 billion, an increase of 9 per cent year-on-year.
The results of Visa’s UAE Travel Snapshot show travellers are increasingly relying on card payments for transactions of various sizes, suggesting increasing preference for the security and convenience of digital payments. It also reflects the wider acceptance network for card payments in the UAE which continues to see momentum.

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.

Khan added: “While the growth in inbound tourism transactions signifies the resilience of the UAE’s tourism sector, it also shows that the UAE government’s measures to attract mass tourists to the country appear to have been effective. With significant projects underway ahead of Expo 2020, Visa looks forward to working with our government and merchant partners in the UAE to continue promoting the country as a tourist destination for everyone.”

Merchant categories that saw growth during the period of study include restaurants (up 30 per cent), airlines (up 9 per cent), and fashion apparel and accessories (up 9 per cent). The luxury goods sector saw a decrease of 10 per cent while leisure and entertainment remained flat. Visa cardholders recorded the highest value of tourism receipts during the traditional UAE travel season, between November and April (2017 and 2018), peaking in December and January for both years. - TadeArabia News Service