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UAE tourist spend down 6% in first quarter

|By Arabian Post Staff| The overall tourism spend by visitors to the UAE declined by 6% in the first quarter of 2016, according to a report on consumer card spends by Network International, the leading payment solutions provider in the MENA region.

Due to a continuous appreciation in the US Dollar along with a bullish global economic outlook and a fall in the prices of crude oil, the largest declines came from China (26%) and Russia (24%).

While overall card spending from Europe and North America has decreased by 3% and 5% respectively, the following countries display strong positive spending growth for the first three months of 2016: Finland (+28%), United Kingdom (+15%), and Ireland (+15%).

Domestic card spends in the UAE, however, increased by 12% in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same period last year, according to the report.

The report, based on credit and debit card transactions in the UAE, found that spending by UAE-issued cards continues to show the strongest growth along with the rest of the countries in the GCC whose spends have increased by 3%. Overall card spending in the country has increased by 7%, largely due to the influence of regional consumers while e-commerce card spends have grown by a staggering 27%

 Domestic card spenders in the UAE continue to remain the most positive influence on the economy’s growth, according to Bhairav Trivedi, Chief Executive Officer, Network International.

The most promising sector in the UAE is undoubtedly the F&B industry with increased domestic card spending of 19% and overall card spends increasing by a healthy 17%. Top international card spending growths came from the MEA region including Saudi Arabia (+31%), Egypt (+29%) and Qatar (+27%). However, Americans also displayed an increased appetite with a strong 20% growth while the UK had a positive 12% growth in the sector.

The luxury retail market took the largest hit in the first three months of 2016 with a decline in card spends of 15% as compared to last year resulting significantly due to the decline in Chinese (52%) and Russian (42%) spending in this sector. There was also a significant decline in card spends by United States (32%) and Saudi Arabia (29%) as well but a modest decrease in domestic card spending of 5% softened the impact overall.

Both overall and domestic card spends in the hotels industry fell slightly by 3% in Q1 2016 (with a 10% decline in average per purchase spend). Interestingly, card spending from the United Kingdom spiked upwards by 17%.