Visitors to the Middle East are spending more on their Visa cards as the number of merchants accepting the cards continues to rise.

Statistics issued by Visa International said travellers to the Middle East spent more than $1 billion on their Visa cards at retail locations during the six months ending April 30, a 43 per cent increase in revenue for retailers over the corresponding period the previous year.

The total number of Visa sales transactions exceeded 63 million, peaking during Ramadan, Eid, Christmas, New Year, DSF and Eid Al Adha. The highest spending occurred in December, when it reached $185 million.

Tourism boards in the Middle East have acknowledged that the use of payment cards by travellers is a major contributor to the revenue growth of local retailers. They also said there is a connection between increased card usage by travellers to the Middle East and positive growth in the local economy.

Khalid Bin Sulayem, director-general of the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, said electronic payment systems are part of the advanced infrastructure Dubai offers to visitors.

"Creating a convenient and safe payment environment is not only beneficial to travellers but also a significant factor in enhancing the success of local retailers and the emirate's booming hospitality and shopping sectors," he said.

Additionally, the increased trend towards electronic payments complements Dubai's e-government initiatives aimed at driving more efficient and streamlined processes.

Marwan Khoury, managing director of the Jordan Tourism Board, had similar views.

"The rising traffic of incoming business and leisure travellers has necessitated that the hospitality and retail community offer electronic payment facilities for safe and easy transactions.

"As plastic becomes an increasingly popular mode of payment, retailers can further add value through loyalty schemes and offers, thereby achieving greater customer satisfaction," he said.

Kamran Siddiqi, general manager Middle East of Visa International, said more merchants are realising the incremental benefits of accepting Visa as the region increasingly moves towards automation in several fields.

In four years, Visa witnessed double-digit growth in acceptance locations in the Middle East to more than 100,000 retailers as of March 31.

"Moving away from cash to automated electronic payments not only boosts bank deposits, thereby increasing the money available for commercial loans in the region, but also creates greater transparency and accountability which, in turn, leads to stronger efficiencies and economic performance across the board," he said.