UAE travel trends: Over 60% of travelers want special experiences over cost

Creating a UAE travel trends experience that meets expectations is more important than the ‘price’ for UAE-based travellers, revealed a recent survey. More than 60 per cent of luxury travellers in the country are increasingly looking for ‘exclusivity’, according to travel consultants.

Matthew D Upchurch, chairman and CEO of Virtuoso, said that the outcomes of the latest study undertaken by his company, in collaboration with YouGov, highlighted that 55 per cent of travellers across markets, including the UAE, said a ‘customised travel experience’ was dearer to them than the cost.

Matthew D. Upchurch

Matthew D. Upchurch

This is particularly high for travellers based in UAE with 61 per cent of people prioritising the same. In neighbouring Saudi Arabia, 62 per cent of travellers also desire this.

Upchurch said, “35 per cent of high-net-worth travellers are travelling for cultural reasons, 30 per cent are looking for adventure while 13 per cent are seeking expedition travel.”

‘Value’, not price

“Talking about the expectations – the issue is ‘value’, not price. Sixty-one per cent of the travellers seek this in the UAE. Then, [we see] significant numbers in Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Brazil, China, want ‘value’ over price,” added Upchurch.

The other trend, he stressed, delineated a growing desire for cultural enrichment and adventurous exploration.

“Then, the other thing that people are looking for is stimulation. They want special experiences; they want either cultural learning or to participate (in some activity). They don’t want to be observers. That’s something that we’ve seen a lot. People want cultural reasons and adventure expeditions,” added Upchurch.

Beyond usual offerings

Affluent travellers from the UAE desire distinctive, tailored experiences which go beyond the usual offerings, other industry experts reiterate.

Rashida Zahid, VP – Operations at, said, “High-value UAE travellers crave unique experiences beyond the mainstream. They seek luxury resort stays or high-end hotels with personalised services. These travellers are also drawn to exploring niche destinations and venturing off the beaten path to discover hidden gems. Exploring cultures and immersing themselves in local communities is a valuable aspect for them, while wellness retreats are highly sought-after – catering to their well-being.”

Rashida Zahid

Rashida Zahid

Tourism growth

Meanwhile, highlighting the blueprint for Dubai’s success as a tourist hotspot Aida Mohammad Al Busaidy, Associate Vice President of consumer Advocacy, at Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) said that while promotional campaigns show Dubai’s attractions, the city has also dedicated years to crafting top-notch infrastructure catering to citizens, residents, and tourists.

“We have nurtured quite a lot of innovative thinking, entrepreneurship, and sustainability has been quite a core component of what we’ve been doing as well. We have been creating different pathways for future growth.”

She pointed out that this helped Dubai welcome 5.18 million international overnight visitors from January to March 2024 – an 11 per cent rise over the 4.67 million tourist arrivals during the same period in 2023.

The official also stressed that the UAE was named the second safest city in the world in 2023 by Numbeo which also increases its attractiveness for all.

“Now, this year, the UAE’s tourism industry is predicted to account for 12 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product – which is equivalent to Dh236 million. Luxury, especially experiential travel, are key segment, and the tourism industry can’t grow without it. It contributes significantly to our tourism performance,” added Busaidy.

Vinayak Mahtani, CEO of Bnbme Holiday Homes, added, “We have various travellers that visit us. However, the foremost travellers visiting the UAE travel trends always expect a service level higher than in any other country. We get requests asking for a bedroom to be changed to an office, changing the mattress because it’s not firm enough, or even arranging a private jet to fly out. It’s our jobs as custodians of the Dubai brand to ensure we ‘wow’ every guest that stays with us.”

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BM Events is owned and operated by an experienced team of German professionals with various backgrounds in management, events and hospitality. By combining efforts, the BM Events consolidates organizational and efficient processes, in order to pay special attention to the client’s needs, requirements and schedules.

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