GCC travelers rely heavily on online sources in journey


JEDDAH — Visa, the world leader in digital payments, today shared the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-related findings of its comprehensive look at global travel and tourism trends at the Arabian Travel Market 2018.

Visa’s Global Travel Intentions (GTI) Study highlights various parts of the travelers’ journey and found that travelers from the United Arab Emirates, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait rely heavily on online sources at every stage of travel and 97%, 93%, and 85%, respectively, gained online access while overseas. The study also uncovered certain aspects of travel that can lead to anxiety and stress, including getting, carrying and exchanging cash.

“Technology is integral at every stage of the modern GCC travelers’ journey, from planning through to the destination and returning home,” said Marcello Baricordi, General Manager for Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Visa. “It is vital for the travel industry to understand how travelers gather information and make decisions. The increasing use of online tools means we should be using these platforms to connect with our consumers at every step of their journey.”

“Our study has also found that digital payment is relevant because travelers want a reliable, secure and convenient experience, without the worry of carrying cash. Visa’s cashless solutions offer travelers the freedom of acceptance at more than 46 million merchant locations worldwide, the peace of mind of being protected by Visa's global, secure network - backed by multiple layers of security, and the added benefit of a competitive exchange rate when they pay in local currency. As more people travel internationally in 2018, we look forward to helping travelers make the most of their trips.”

In addition to examining the motivations and planning tactics, the GTI Study of outbound travelers from 27 countries and territories also uncovered a number of macro trends expected to continue into 2018.

Globally trips may be getting shorter but GCC travelers still favor longer trips.

The global average is now eight nights, down from 9.5 nights on average in 2015. The average trip length in GCC countries is nine nights for UAE travelers, 10 nights for Kuwait travelers and 14 nights for KSA travelers.

Globally, people are planning to take more trips abroad in the future, from an average of 2.5 trips in the past two years to 2.7 trips in the next two years. A similar upward trend was observed among GCC countries. While UAE travelers had taken 4.8 international trips in the past two years, they anticipate taking 5.4 trips in the next two years. Those living in KSA and Kuwait travel less frequently (1.0 for KSA and 0.8 for Kuwait); however, travelers in both countries expect to increase slightly to 1.1 in the next two years.

Technology is helping some travelers navigate their destinations better. While 88 percent of travelers gained online access while abroad, more GCC travelers use a mobile device to access the Internet during their trip (97 percent from UAE; 93 percent from KSA and 95 percent from Kuwait).

Almost half (44 percent) of travelers globally use ride-sharing apps to get around once they are on the ground. Travelers from the UAE sharply exceed this figure, with 71 percent of travelers from the UAE using ride-sharing apps at their travel destinations. In contrast, travelers from Kuwait and KSA rarely use ride-sharing apps while traveling, with only 11 percent of KSA travelers and six percent of Kuwait travelers using these apps.

Travelers generally visit a single country, with only 11 percent of global travelers visiting multiple countries in one trip. In the GCC, multi-destination trips are even less common with only 9 percent of UAE travelers, 4 percent of KSA travelers and 6 percent of Kuwait travelers visiting multiple countries.

Japan has overtaken the United States as the most popular destination for global travelers in the past two years. Over the next two years, the UAE will remain the preferred destination for KSA (11 percent of travelers) and Kuwait (10 percent) while India will remain the preferred destination for travelers from the UAE (10 percent). Turkey stands out as the second most preferred destination to visit for Saudi and Kuwaiti travelers, and third for UAE, followed closely by Egypt in all three countries.

When it comes to what travelers spend on their entire trips, including the booking stage as well as expenditures at the destination, the top five spenders are travelers from KSA (intend to spend a median of $4,800 on next trip), China ($4,034), Australia ($3,529), the United States ($3,500) and Kuwait ($3,474). Travelers from the UAE ($3,430) also plan to spend more than the global median amount of ($2.443).

In the GCC, the majority of spending during the planning and booking phase of a trip is done via card payments; 84 percent in UAE, 55 percent in KSA and 60 percent in Kuwait. In the UAE, nearly half of all consumers attribute this preference mainly to lower transaction fees and better rewards for international usage. In KSA and Kuwait, over three-fourths of travelers say that the main reason for this trend is that their agent/booking website prefers this payment method.

While travelers use a combination of cards and cash while on vacation, the study showed that over 50% of travelers from KSA and Kuwait would shift to card payments while travelling abroad, if they believed merchants would accept it internationally.

The study also found the following themes related to the use of cash while traveling internationally:

• Cash causes anxiety: Travelers cited loss of cash or theft as a top money concern while on trips. Additionally, high charges/rates and security are among the top concerns affecting ATM withdrawals abroad for travelers from UAE, KSA and Kuwait.

• Big Spenders: The global median amount of cash brought to destination is US$778 but travelers from the GCC bring substantially more cash; UAE travelers brought $1,901, KSA travelers brought US$2,168 and Kuwait travelers brought US$2,218 on their last trip.

• Leftover cash: While 87 percent of travelers globally have leftover cash after their trips, this is substantially higher for GCC travelers. 90 percent of travelers from the UAE, 97 percent from KSA and 93 percent from Kuwait have cash leftover. — SG