Three striking preferences of consumers in the
Middle East and the UAE. Results of the MasterCard Consumer Lifestyles
survey conducted at the end of 2006 were revealed highlighting
some interesting shifts in consumer preferences.
The MasterCard Consumer Lifestyles survey is part of the bi-annual
MasterIndex of Consumer Confidence, a survey commissioned by MasterCard
Worldwide across South Asia, Middle East & Africa (SAMEA). The Consumer
Lifestyles survey seeks to understand perceptions, choices and concerns
that people have with regard to a number of lifestyle choices.
All consumers surveyed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) plan to travel
in the next twelve months, 84% for personal reasons, 2% for business and
14% for both. Across the Middle East & Levant (ME&L), consumers continue
to travel, with 74% of consumers surveyed planning to travel out of
their country in the course of the year.
Escaping the hot summer seems to be one of the main motivations for
determining the travel period – residents prefer traveling in June
(23%), July (28%) and August (15%). The latest survey shows UAE
consumers favor India (43%), Egypt (19%), and Thailand (10%) as travel
destinations. In the previous survey India and Egypt were also among the
preferred destinations, and Thailand has substituted destinations such
as Switzerland, Australia, Lebanon and Pakistan in this survey. Across
ME&L, the choice of destination varies but Egypt (14%), India (17%) and
other Gulf countries combined (9% each) are generally popular, but
consumers continue to travel outside the region to destinations in
Europe, North America and Australia.
Not surprisingly, the majority of ME&L consumers surveyed (79%) said
they were going to spend more this year on personal travel than they did
last year. In the UAE, 84% of those surveyed were planning to spend
more, 1% more than in the previous survey (83%). Half of the UAE
surveyed consumers (46% vs. 43% in 1H2006) anticipated they would spend
between 11%-25% more on personal travel, while 17% said they would spend
26%-50% more, as opposed to 20% in the first half 2006. Spending on
business travel looks to further increase in the next year with 59% (vs
41% in 1H2006) of consumers willing to spend more.
When traveling shopping is almost a must do holiday activity, ranking as
the main activity enjoyed while on a personal travel trip for 61% (vs.
69% in 1H2006) of ME&L travelers surveyed. This was even higher among
UAE consumers surveyed as 82% (88% in 1H2006) nominated shopping as
their main holiday activity. This was followed by entertainment (74% vs.
59%), visiting family or friends (62% vs. 67%), rest and relaxation (56%
vs. 43%) and general sightseeing (47% vs. 38%).
Safety and security is a concern for 74% of UAE consumers, a decrease
compared to 87% in the first half 2006. Other concerns include losing a
passport (56%), losing a wallet (48%), and being cheated (47%). Across
the ME&L concern over security and safety is
no longer the biggest worry (45% vs. 56% in 1H2006) for consumers who
plan to travel this year. Surprisingly, the biggest concern for ME&L
travelers overall is the risk of loosing one’s passport (47%).
The majority of UAE travelers own some sort of payment card whether it
is a credit card (65%), a debit card (71%) or a prepaid card (37%).
Consumers offer a variety of reasons for carrying a payment card when
Debit cards are becoming more popular as a payment method, experiencing
a sharp increase in ME&L compared to the last survey (39% vs. 27%) but
travelers still prefer to use their credit cards (53% vs 53% in 1H2006)
to pay for their overseas travel expenses. Checks, foreign notes and
ATM withdrawal have become far less popular.
Consumers indicated a number of reasons for increasing their use of
debit cards. For consumers, debit cards allow them to spend what is in
the bank account (54%) and debit cards offer more control (40%).
Consumers also state that debit cards are more secure than cash (36%),
widely accepted (40%) and convenient (37%).
The most popular reason for using a credit is that it is more secure
than cash (73% vs 77% in 1H2006). Other results from the latest survey
show that across ME&L, 46% thought credit cards were widely accepted
(against 39% in the last survey), 46% said a credit card gave them
better control over their spending (against 34% in the last survey) and
43% thought a credit card gives better foreign exchange rates (as
opposed to 33% in the last survey). This indicates that confidence in
payment cards and the value they add to the traveler is increasing.