Tourists near the BurjKhalifa in DowntownDubai. Last festive season from December 8 to January witnessed a big jump in UAE’s card spend, largely driven by international visitors to key Dubai tourist attractions according to data from Network International. Image Credit: Javed Nawab/Gulf News Archive

Dubai: Last festive season from December 8 to January witnessed a big jump in UAE’s card spend, largely driven by international visitors to key Dubai tourist attractions.

According to the latest data on spending on internationally-issued cards by Network International, the leading enabler of digital commerce across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region card spend witnessed a big surge in the yearend.

Samer Soliman

“Retailers, hotels and entertainment attractions in Dubai had a lot to be cheerful about at the end of last year after the festive season brought significant increase in spending,” said Samer Soliman, Managing Director - Middle East, Network International.

The Network International’s data showed aggregated credit and debit card transactions in the UAE by tourists were a big factor in the overall card spend.

Russians top luxury buyers

By nationality, Russian tourists emerged the top buyers of luxury goods in Dubai. The greatest uplift in spend came during Orthodox Christmas, celebrated in early January, with significant business from Russian visitors, marking a 169 per cent spend increase in comparison to a 21 per cent growth in spend for other tourists.

“Russian tourists emerged as top buyers of luxury goods and experiences especially when compared to international visitor spend across the same sectors. They further dominated spending at high-end department stores, responsible for a 336 per cent increase in transactions in comparison to the 25 per cent growth in spend from international tourists,” said Soliman.

Russian visitors additionally drove up spending on jewelry, watches and clocks by 315 per cent while other tourists added a 27 per cent surge in transactions.

New Year rings in big bucks
Dubai’s New Year’s Eve celebrations are famous for attracting spectators from around the globe with its spectacular fireworks displays seen and heard from numerous locations across the city.
“While gifting dominated pre-Christmas spend, year-end spending was all about ringing in the New Year in style across Dubai’s many hospitality experiences. The start of the new decade was welcomed with a 60 per cent rise in spend on hotel stays as well as a 44 per cent increase in restaurant dining on the big night,” said Soliman.
Global Village was top attraction for international spend growth. Dubai’s outdoor-friendly attractions saw a significant buildup in international spend, ruled by the Emirate’s seasonal shopping and multicultural amusement Global Village that saw a 369 per cent surge in card spend during the festive season.
Visitor spending also increased by 213 per cent at Dubai Parks and Resorts, in addition to a 198 per cent uplift in transactions across food, retail and entertainment outlets at beachfront development La Mer. Outdoor shopping, dining and leisure destination City Walk also got its share of 86 per cent more spend for the season.
Activities and entertainment around the Dubai Shopping Festival likely contributed to the growth in spending, particularly visitors from Saudi Arabia who typically arrive in the run up to New Year.

Restaurants also owe a bigger piece of the holiday spending pie to visitors from Russia who upped spending by 295 per cent while other global guests contributed 81 per cent growth in spend. The most popular Dubai attractions for Russian tourists during Orthodox Christmas were The Walk, JBR (60 per cent), and Dubai Parks and Resorts (21 per cent).

UK and European tourists

Spending on internationally issued cards rose significantly (13 per cent) between the pre-Christmas period and Christmas with European spending alone surging by 19 per cent.

The UK had the highest contribution to overall European spend (63 per cent), followed by Germany (13 per cent), France (10 per cent), Switzerland (8 per cent) and Italy (7 per cent)

UK shoppers spent most on fashion and cosmetics in Dubai. During Christmas week, shoppers from the UK splurged most on clothing and boutique purchases as they prepared to step out to parties, powering a 65 per cent spend uplift, followed by cosmetics with a 64 per cent increase. They also treated themselves to festive stays for the holidays driving up spending at hotels by 34 per cent. Customers further gave high-end department stores 31 per cent more business and 26 per cent more to jewelry, watches and clocks as they did their run of Christmas shopping.