UAE retail sector sees double-digit consumer spending surge: Majid Al Futtaim

Majid Al Futtaim, the leading shopping mall, communities, retail, and leisure pioneer across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, today released its annual ‘State of the UAE Retail Economy’ report for 2023. The report, which highlights key economic data, trends and insights into consumers’ behaviour patterns, spending habits, and sentiment across the Emirates, revealed that the UAE economy has remained resilient amid recent geopolitical tensions and economic headwinds, with the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) expanding 3% on the back of a robust performance from non-oil sectors. Consumer spending in the retail economy displayed robust growth throughout the year, delivering a 13% increase in 2023 vs. 2022. While data showed a slowdown across the retail sectors in H2 2023 vs. H2 2022, this was found to be the result of a higher base effect from the previous year’s FIFA World Cup, which had given impetus to consumer spending due to a surge in tourism for that period. Overall, absolute consumer spend in 2023 was split evenly across the first half and the second half of the year, driven by a 14% increase in the UAE’s retail economy, including fashion (31%), general retail (16%), leisure and entertainment (15%), and hypermarkets and supermarkets (3%), and a 12% increase in non-retail spending in areas such as real estate services (100%), petrol and gas stations (28%), transportation (57%), and airlines (25%).Ahmed Galal Ismail, Chief Executive Officer at Majid Al Futtaim – Holding, said: “The UAE’s far-ranging social and economic ambitions continue to fuel the Nation’s success in creating long-term prosperity for its people. Over the past 12 months, its proven resilience to external pressures, coupled with progressive policy-making and an investor-friendly business environment has seen the UAE further strengthen its position as a lighthouse for the MENA region.Bucking global trends, the Nation’s ability to act as a magnet for global talent, investors and entrepreneurs, has translated to a record number of visitors, far surpassing pre-COVID levels, fuelling consumer confidence and further contributing to its thriving retail sector. Looking ahead, buoyed by positive retail economy indicators, the UAE is well-positioned to continue its remarkable growth trajectory.”The UAE successfully reduced inflation from a high of 5.2% in 2022, to 3.3% in 2023. Inflation in the country remained below the global average (at 6.9%), and considerably lower than the Middle East average (at 13.9%), sheltering consumers from most of the pressures emanating from the cost-of-living crisis experienced around the world in 2023.E-commerceE-commerce penetration in the UAE has more than doubled since 2019, rising from 5% in 2019 to 12% in 2023, with approximately 70% of transactions attributed to mobile phones. Consequently, the recorded growth in consumer spending was spurred by higher levels of accessibility brought on by an e-commerce boom, which has not slowed since the onset of the pandemic. Supported by the UAE’s Digital Economy Strategy which aims to double the contribution of the digital economy to GDP by 2032, and owing to world-class logistics and advanced digital infrastructure, there was a 15% increase in e-commerce consumer spending in the UAE retail economy in 2023, according to Majid Al Futtaim Point of Sales (POS) data.A majority of the growth in e-commerce spend was driven by increases in consumer spending within hypermarkets and supermarkets (19%), and retail general categories such as F&B (57%), electronics (271%), and hotels (10%), supported by a digitally savvy population and a strong fintech sector.Travel and TourismThe UAE's travel and tourism sectors witnessed significant growth in 2023, with tourist numbers surpassing pre-pandemic levels for the first time. More than half (53%) of international visitors came from Western Europe, South Asia, and the GCC. There was a notable surge in Chinese visitors, which rose by 287% compared to 2022.Dubai alone hosted 17.2 million overnight international visitors in 2023, a 19% year-on-year increase, with Dubai International Airport (DXB) experiencing its highest quarterly traffic in Q3 since 2019. As a result, hotel occupancy records hit a record high of 77% in 2023, up from 73% in 2022. The success of the country’s travel and tourism sector is in line with the UAE Tourism Strategy 2031, which aims to attract AED 100 billion in tourism investments and accommodate 40 million hotel guests by 2031.  Real EstateFollowing a very strong performance in 2022, the UAE’s real estate market continued to thrive in 2023 marking a record-breaking year both in terms of property sales volumes and value. Transactions were up 18% compared to 2022, with sales values increasing by 39% to AED 370 billion in 2023. Dubai, in particular, has seen a rapid increase in property prices, growing by over 20% annually in 2023, making it the second-fastest growing real estate market in the world.

Middle East consumers willing to pay more for luxury excursions

Dubai : Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important consideration within the Middle East’s luxury travel sector, especially in the UAE where 61% of residents say they are willing to pay a premium for more responsible, eco-friendly and sustainable tourism experiences. Trends and opportunities within the high-end travel segment will represent key focuses throughout the 30th edition of Arabian Travel Market (ATM), which will run from 1-4 May 2023 at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC).According to YouGov’s Global Travel & Tourism Whitepaper 2023: Luxury travel post-pandemic, one in 10 consumers has stayed in luxury eco-friendly accommodation during the past three years. This trend is especially prevalent among high-income travellers, whose sustainable luxury hotel stays have increased by 50% during the same period.The UAE topped global rankings in terms of the value placed on exploring, with almost two-thirds (58%) of respondents reporting that travel has become more important to them since the Covid-19 pandemic. In terms of luxury travel priorities, a quarter of those living in the Emirates are looking for great entertainment, whereas 19% place the biggest emphasis on premium-quality accommodation when booking trips.Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market, said, “The Middle East has developed an unparalleled international reputation for luxury tourism, with consumers across the region placing a high value on bespoke, memorable and environmentally responsible experiences. This is especially pertinent given ATM 2023’s theme, ‘Working Towards Net Zero’. Industry leaders will be showcasing the innovative ways in which they are delivering luxury, sustainable travel experiences across the Gulf and beyond.”In addition to sustainable luxury travel, consumers’ appetite for authentic excursions is also on the rise within this segment. Over half (51%) of affluent tourists have sought more meaningful travel experiences since the pandemic, and more than a quarter (27%) are willing to pay extra for secluded villas and chalets. These figures coincide with growth across the Gulf’s travel industry. By 2028, the value of the UAE’s outbound sector is set to reach $30.5 billion, Saudi Arabia is on course to hit $27 billion, Kuwait is expected to grow to $17 billion, and Qatar is likely to exceed $13 billion.Premium travel will be placed under the microscope at ATM 2023, as high-profile names from across the sector gather in Dubai to discuss luxury-related trends, challenges and opportunities during the session entitled, Sustainable Luxury: At What Cost?. Moderated by Joe Mortimer, Editor-at-Large at Destinations of the World News, speakers including Amir Golbarg, Senior Vice President Operations - Middle East & Africa at Minor Hotels; Candice D’Cruz, VP Luxury Brands at Marriott International; and Nadia Ibrahim, Member of the Board of Directors at the UN Global Compact, will discuss a range of industry-critical topics, such as the environmental impact of luxury hospitality and the most effective methods of carbon offsetting.ATM 2023 will also see the return of International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) Arabia 2023, a luxury-focused event dedicated to high-end destinations, premium accommodation and bespoke tourism experiences, which will run on days two and three of the show. The upcoming edition of ILTM Arabia will deliver extensive networking and knowledge-sharing opportunities to participants, as 44 exhibitors engage with a select group of buyers catering to high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) across the GCC and broader region.ATM 2023 will feature an array of exclusive brands from the Middle East’s luxury hospitality segment, including Kerzner International’s Atlantis The Palm and Atlantis The Royal; Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts’ Burj Al Arab; Caesars Palace Dubai; Emaar Hospitality Group; and more. The ILTM Lounge will also host a range of international luxury exhibitors, such as Japan’s Hotel New Otani Tokyo Executive House ZEN; Adaaran Resorts Maldives; Switzerland’s Red Carnation Hotel Collection; France’s Airelles; and The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach in the United States, among others.The 30th edition of ATM will explore the future of sustainable travel in line with its theme, ‘Working Towards Net Zero’. Having officially initiated its journey to net zero, the conference programme will explore how innovative sustainable travel trends are likely to evolve, allowing delegates to identify growth strategies within key vertical sectors, while providing a platform for regional experts to explore a sustainable future ahead of COP28, which will take place in November 2023 at Expo City Dubai.The conference will also feature a sustainability category at its annual exhibitor awards for the first time. Exhibiting organisations will be recognised based on the extent to which they have considered the environmental impact of their stands, as well as their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. ATM 2023 is held in conjunction with Dubai World Trade Centre and its strategic partners include Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) as the Destination Partner, Emirates as the Official Airline Partner, IHG Hotels & Resorts as the Official Hotel Partner and Al Rais Travel as the Official DMC Partner.

Wego named the #1 travel app for flight searches and bookings

DUBAI : Wego has emerged as the #1 travel app for flight search and booking in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region with a year-over-year (YOY) growth of over 157.7% and 143,002 downloads in February 2023, according to data from data was gathered by analyzing the download rates of 1,062 travel apps that offer flight and hotel search capabilities. Wego has also earned the distinction of being the most downloaded travel app for flight-focused brands in the MENA region, and secondly, it is the most downloaded travel app under Meta and OTA categories in Kuwait since September 2022. With holidays such as Eid Fitr approaching soon, the app's popularity is expected to rise steadily.Wego is an award-winning travel app and one of the largest online travel marketplaces in the MENA & Asia Pacific. With its extensive network of airline and hotel partners, Wego offers travelers a comprehensive range of travel options, allowing them to find the best deals and make informed decisions about their travel plans.Whether traveling for adventure, work, family, or other reasons, users can rely on Wego to provide them with a seamless booking experience.Wego's success can be attributed to its user-friendly interface, which allows users to browse and compare flight and hotel room options from multiple airlines and hotels in one place.Moreover, throughout the year 2022, Wego has introduced a string of new updates and features for its users, like easier payment gateways with its collaboration with Tabby and Apple Pay. This, coupled with the app's competitive pricing, has helped Wego secure its position as the top travel app for flight search and booking in the MENA region.