x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

As confidence returns, UAE travellers spread their wings

UAE residents have become confident enough in the economy to start planning more expensive trips abroad next year, a survey by YouGov shows.

Passengers at Sharjah airport: a survey shows UAE residents are planning to travel more as the economy improves.
Passengers at Sharjah airport: a survey shows UAE residents are planning to travel more as the economy improves.

UAE residents have become confident enough in the economy to start planning more expensive trips abroad next year, a survey by YouGov shows. The YouGov quarterly Travel Tracker, which last month surveyed 714 leisure travellers who live in the UAE, found people were starting to think more about long-haul beach and resort holidays, rather than staying closer to home.

"A lot more people are expecting to fly in the future, almost back to the levels of pre-recession," said Jane Wilson, the director of travel and tourism research at YouGov. This optimism had largely stemmed from positive signs that the world was emerging from economic crisis and improved sentiment in the UAE, Ms Wilson said. "What we're seeing for the future is that people, instead of just visiting family and friends, are now saying they're thinking about doing a resort or beach holiday, whereas three months ago they were saying that they had been visiting family and friends and that's what they were going to continue to do," she said.

Twenty-one per cent of people surveyed said they were looking to take a resort holiday in the next year, compared with 13 per cent who said they had taken one in the past 12 months. Fifty-two per cent had used their holiday for home leave over the past year, but only 25 per cent said they would do so this year. "It's a real sign that people are feeling a bit more optimistic," said Ms Wilson. "What they actually do, we have to keep tracking. There's a whole market feeling that things are getting better and people are feeling more secure."

Figures from the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) showed that tourism arrivals worldwide fell 7 per cent in the first seven months of the year, compared with the same period last year. The UNWTO cited the global economic downturn and the swine flu outbreaks as the main reasons for this decline, adding that it expected the pace of decline to slow during the rest of the year. It forecasts a decline of between 4 and 6 per cent in international tourism this year.

YouGov said that the trend over the past year had been for UAE residents to take more short-haul trips and less long-haul trips. The launch of low-cost carrier flydubai had also helped to boost the number of short-haul trips. But even if travellers returned to longer flights, Ms Wilson said shorter trips were likely to remain popular. "Because it is so cheap now to fly short-haul I don't think that it will tail off," she said.

"Low-cost carriers tend to generate travel rather than take it from the competition. "If you look currently, we're still seeing value for money and price as important when choosing airlines and hotels. Budget hotels and economy class are still popular." The complete version of the YouGov survey will be released at the Middle East Tourism Marketing Summit on Thursday. @Email:rbundhun@thenational.ae