The most recent addition of the YouGov Travel Oracle indicates MENA leisure travel remains steady, with 42 percent of online respondents travelling for leisure in 2012, a similar percentage to the reported 41 percent in 2011. On average, MENA leisure travelers interviewed took 5 leisure trips by air (mean 4.99; n=9,317) over the course of the year, in line with the results from YouGov’s 2011 Travel Oracle (mean 5.10; n=10,619).
The United Arab Emirates was the most popular travel destination for leisure holidays in 2012 (13% of MENA leisure travelers visited the UAE for their most recent holiday). Other popular destinations included Saudi Arabia (8 percent), Egypt (7 percent), India (6 percent) and Turkey (5 percent). The UAE was a particularly favoured destination amongst residents of Oman (28 percent of Omani leisure travelers last visited the UAE for leisure travel), Sudan (25 percent), Bahrain (22 percent) and KSA (22 percent). The attractiveness of the UAE as a leisure destination may be somewhat explained by the importance travelers place on the safety and security of a destination (40% of respondents chose this as among the most important attributes considered when deciding on a leisure destination), placed only slightly behind the importance of reasonable cost (46 percent) and good weather (45 percent). At the other end of the scale, less important attributes included a destination’s novelty (15 percent), the availability of events/concerts/festivals (16 percent) and surprisingly, recommendations from other travelers/word-of-mouth (18 percent).
Visiting friends and relatives was the most common reason for leisure travel, with 1 in 5 respondents travelling for this purpose, a number that increased to 1 in 4 when looking at female leisure travel. Considering the different regions covered, GCC residents were also most likely to be travelling to visit friends and relatives (23 percent), whilst the largest proportion of those from North Africa and the Levant travelled last for a cruise holiday (20 percent and 22 percent respectively). Looking across age groups, it is clear that older travelers (40+) had a higher interest in cultural/sightseeing holidays, whilst younger respondents were slightly more drawn to adventure trips. There is also a clear correlation between visit purpose and holiday budget, so that those travelling to visit friends and relatives, typically have a lower total personal holiday budget (a mean spend of $3329). Respondents in the highest spend category (those with a total personal trip budget mean of $5000+) were typically travelling for shopping or touring (either by bus or car). Female respondents and those from the GCC also emerged as higher spenders, with females spending an average of $4184 (compared to $3944 for males) and GCC residents spending $4331 on average (vs. $3486 for North Africa residents and $3057 for residents of the Levant).
Whilst on longer holidays (4+ nights), respondents most commonly regarded visiting natural attractions as an essential activity (chosen by almost one-third of respondents—31 percent ‘top-box’), especially among females (36% ‘top-box’) and North Africans (34% ‘top-box’). Sightseeing (in cities/towns) and religious pursuits were also seen as an important part of the holiday itinerary. In contrast, engaging in water sports, hiking, cycling, golf, horse riding, fishing and attending theatre/concerts were activities considered less important by a large proportion of respondents.
Looking forward, just over half of respondents believe their leisure travel will increase over the next 12 months. Travelers aged 25 – 29 were most optimistic about the increase in their leisure travel, as were respondents from Algeria. As for destinations, the largest percent expect their next leisure holiday to be to the UAE or Turkey, but when asked where they would most like to visit (if they had the opportunity to travel anywhere in the world) 40 percent would choose a Western destination (specifically, 9 percent saying the USA and 7 percent choosing Italy).
The Travel Oracle was conducted using the YouGov Online Panel and all questionnaires were completed between the 17th December 2012 and 14th January 2013. The results are based on a total sample of 22,429 respondents (including 8,271 from GCC, 3,066 from the Levant and 7,999 from North Africa). The YouGov panel is broadly representative of the online populations within the region.