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The UAE in top ten global trending destinations, Mastercard study

The UAE in top ten global trending destinations, Mastercard study

The travel sector in 2024 is breaking boundaries. This year consumer spending on travel is robust with significant increases in passenger traffic, according to the latest global report from the Mastercard Economics Institute. 

‘Travel Trends 2024’ provides comprehensive insights into the evolving landscape of the travel industry across multiple markets.

Despite fluctuating exchange rates and varying levels of affordability, the desire to travel remains stronger than ever with the UAE ranking #9 in top trending destinations globally in the last 12 months. For UAE travelers, the top three trending destinations for this summer are London, Athens and Paris. 

Globally, Japan tops the trending destinations list for the past year with Munich ranking as the top trending destination for this summer (June-August 2024) given the European Championship action.

In 2024 the travel sector is flourishing, with nine out of the last 10 record-setting spending days in the global cruise and airline industry occurring this year.

Travelers leaving the Middle East region are more strategic with where and when they travel and are increasingly spending closer to home within the region. Meanwhile, travelers to Africa and the Middle East are extending their trips by an extra three days compared to pre-pandemic.

“The travel sector in the Middle East region is incredibly strong and resilient, supported by consumer demand, an appetite to discover destinations closer to home, while enjoying memorable and authentic experiences. It’s great to see travelers extend their stays, and this is something that’s very positive for the tourism industry at large, as well as local governments building diversified economies,” said Natalia Lechmanova, Chief Economist EEMEA at Mastercard Economics Institute.

Drawing on a unique analysis of aggregated and anonymized transaction data, including Mastercard SpendingPulse™, and third-party data sources, the report takes a deep dive into key travel trends globally for the year and beyond, including:
Record traveling

Globally, international travel has surged in Q1 of 2024 overall. Similarly, in the Middle East, tourism boards have announced some historic firsts:
•    After setting a new visitor record in 2023, Dubai recorded a 11% increase in Q1-2024 tourism numbers. The surge in travel reflects greater activity, fueled by a stronger desire to travel.
•    Elsewhere in the GCC, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia exceeded three million inbound visits per month for the first time in its history, and repeated that for three consecutive months (January to March 2024.
•    Egypt too recorded 27% year-on-year growth in visitors in 2023. Tourist arrivals in Morocco reached 3.3 million at the end of the first quarter of 2024, up 12.8% on the same period a year earlier.
Leisure for longer
Tourists in Africa and the Middle East have spent an extra three days on vacation on average, compared to the global average of one extra day. In contrast to pre-pandemic stays, visitors to the UAE are spending about a day longer, while in Morocco, they’re staying about four days longer. 

The Mastercard Economics Institute finds a clear inverse relationship between the price of the destination and the incremental number of days tourists spend while in those destinations. In other words, the cheaper the destination, the longer the stay. And longer stays generally translate to more spend per trip, providing an economic boost for businesses supporting local economies in the travel industry.

Experience economy on the go
Consumers have prioritized meaningful experiences over material goods, even when traveling. Spending on experiences now totals 12% of tourism sales, according to SpendingPulse Destinations which provides worldwide estimates of tourism at a high frequency level across all payment types - the highest point in at least five years as of March 2024. In the UAE, tourism spending on casual dining has been roughly 21% higher than the same time last year. Memorable events are driving travel trends, whether it is for concerts (like Taylor Swift shows) or sporting events (like the Cricket World Cup). 

In 2027, all eyes will be on Egypt when a total eclipse happens right above the pyramids. Analysis by the Mastercard Economics Institute of this year’s solar eclipse in the US found a substantial lift in sales in the areas within the path of totality.

Cruising full steam ahead
For many travelers, the widening price difference between cruises and hotels has made cruises a more budget-friendly option for a getaway. Global cruise passenger transactions were roughly 16% above 2019 levels in Q1.

 In March, the Cruise Arabia alliance was formed by Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Oman’s maritime and tourism authorities to position the Arabian Gulf as an international cruise destination.



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