Visa: Brits biggest card spenders in UAE


When it comes to swiping plastic in the UAE, British tourists are head and shoulders above the rest, new research from payment solutions provider Visa shows.

The report, titled Tourism Outlook: UAE, reckons that, in 2010, spend by international visitors on Visa cards in the UAE grew by 20.3 per cent year-on-year to $3.1 billion, and that visitor numbers increased by three per cent y-o-y.

Visa’s report, based on tourism receipts from across the UAE in 2009 and 2010, provides valuable insight into the spending habits of international visitors on their Visa debit and credit cards.

Of the total spend on Visa cards by international visitors, $1.9bn came from just 10 markets, with the British being the top spenders by far, contributing over $441.2 million towards the UAE economy on their Visa cards – almost 10 per cent more than in the previous year. They are followed by American and Russian visitors ($302.9 and $238.1 million, respectively).

However, when it came to per capita spending, Chinese tourists top the charts, with an average 2010 transaction size of $542.77, a growth of almost 52 per cent on the 2009 transaction size of $357.60.

In comparison, British tourists’ average transaction size was $212.15 in 2010 (2009: $228.56) while American tourists swiped their Visa cards for an average transaction of $186.96 ($210.12).

The other top average spenders included tourists from Angola ($536.69 per transaction), Kazakhstan ($518.50) and Russia ($443.32).

Some of the other interesting insights in Visa’s report include the confirmation of the fact that end-of-year holidays remain the busiest tourist season for the country, especially during November and December, when the temperate climate makes it the most popular time to travel to the UAE. In fact, the last two months of the year account for over a fifth of the total annual international spend on Visa cards (21.8 per cent).

Merchants across the UAE are enjoying a much welcome boost, with department stores in particular reaping the benefits of increased international spending.

They enjoyed an impressive 48.8 per cent increase in tourism receipts, thanks in a large part to travelers from Saudi Arabia, Russia and the UK.

Kamran Siddiqi, General Manager, Visa Middle East, said: “As one of the world’s largest retail electronic payments networks, Visa supports the tourism industry by providing payment systems which are trusted across the globe, helping to drive growth in international spend by giving visitors reassurance and confidence to use their cards whilst in the UAE.

“As a result, Visa is uniquely placed to provide a valuable insight into where and how visitors are spending their money when they visit the UAE. We’re seeing a really positive sign that things are on the up and, with the country expected to see some of the world’s strongest inbound tourism growth over the next five years, the travel and tourism industry is set to enjoy a further cash boost from international visitors.”

In addition to supporting international cardholders when visiting the UAE, Visa also offers a wide range of rewards and benefits to its debit and credit cardholders here in the UAE.

This summer, Visa has teamed up with some of the UAE’s biggest names, including Jumeirah, Emirates and Emaar to offer a wide range of exclusive privileges including discounts on flights, hotels and hospitality.