Marriott Bonvoy’s 2023 Travel Trends research reveals an increase in breaks from travellers in UAE & Saudi
Marriott Bonvoy’s 2023 Travel Trends research, which analysed the 2023 travel plans of 14,000 travellers across Europe and the Middle East, revealed that travellers in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are planning to spend more on holidays in 2023, with most in both markets (93 percent) planning to go away, and more than two thirds in each market (66 percent in Saudi Arabia and 69 percent in the UAE) planning more breaks than in 2022. Luxury will also be a key theme, with around a quarter planning on staying in luxury accommodation whilst away.
With more than nine in ten respondents planning to go away, the majority of travellers are clearly trying to ring fence spending for holidays. Overall 66 percent of those planning to go away in Saudi Arabia and 69 percent in UAE say they will be going on more holidays in 2023 compared to the previous year, whilst far fewer say they will be travelling less frequently, suggesting a continued upwards trajectory for the industry post pandemic. This is even more positive in light of data from Marriott Bonvoy which show that bookings in the Middle East from April this year were back to pre-pandemic levels, and are up 30 percent versus last year.
Authentic travel is also key, with many wanting to immerse themselves in a complete change of culture, with over half in both markets (55 percent in the UAE and 56 percent in Saudi Arabia) wanting to explore new destinations and cultures. To truly soak up local culture, 30 percent of those from the UAE and 27 percent from Saudi Arabia plan on taking an ‘extended holiday’ of three weeks or more in one destination.
Of those going on an extended holiday, 39 percent from Saudi Arabia and 37 percent from the UAE say that it is the first time they will be doing so. 48 percent of those from the UAE and 44 percent from Saudi Arabia going on extended holidays highlighted that being able to work remotely allows them to take a longer holiday without having to take annual leave for the whole break.
In fact, hybrid and remote working has had a significant impact on travel plans in 2023. Nearly a third of those from the UAE (31 percent) and 23 percent from Saudi Arabia plan to take a ‘work-away holiday’ – where they will continue to log on and work whilst travelling, thus allowing them to experience a new place without taking annual leave.
Wellbeing-led holidays that allow people to get away from it all will be the predominant type of break those in the Middle East go on. More than six in ten from the UAE (61 percent) plan to, whilst the figure is even higher for Saudi Arabia (73 percent).
In 2023, 74 percent in the UAE and 69 percent in Saudi Arabia plan to spend more on their holidays compared to the previous year. Around a quarter in each market (26 percent in the UAE and 25 percent in Saudi Arabia) plan to splash out and stay in luxury accommodation, whilst all-inclusive resorts will also be popular (17 percent in the UAE and 12 percent in Saudi Arabia). As a result, consumers from the UAE and Saudi Arabia have high expectations with regards to their holiday accommodation with cost, cleanliness and location the three most important factors.
Travellers are being smarter in the ways they are planning to save so they can safeguard their premium holiday experience – for example, to ensure they can still go to the destination they want, 42 percent from the UAE and 43 percent from Saudi Arabia plan to travel at different times of the year. However, just 27 percent in the UAE and 26 percent in Saudi Arabia say they will look to compromise by opting for cheaper accommodation.
Sustainability is now a key factor when it comes to travel plans, with 85 percent in the UAE and 80 percent in Saudi Arabia saying environmental considerations now have some impact on their arrangements. 43 percent in the UAE go as far as to say environmental considerations define their travel plans and they will only spend money with companies that have a positive environmental impact, whilst the figure is 38 percent in Saudi Arabia.
The increase in trips and spending is, in part, because of more confidence that 2023 holiday plans won’t be impacted by Covid, and the fact that travel remains a priority for Middle Eastern consumers. Sustainability also plays an important role in 2023 travel plans, whilst ‘having a break from it all’ is key for holidaymakers.