UAE's British expats spend twice the average visitor on trips home

Return visits by Britons living in the Emirates would boost UK's post-Covid economic recovery

The VisitBritain study showed that building relationships with family and friends were the main drivers for travel. Photo: AP

Britons living in the UAE spend about twice as much on trips to the UK as the average global visitor, a survey by the Visit Britain tourism agency found.

Research from the UK's national tourism agency also claims that travellers from the Gulf could be vital in helping Britain's post-pandemic economic recovery.

The findings revealed that if VisitBritain was able to encourage just under 1 per cent of Britons living in the UAE to spend an extra four nights in the UK each year, this would generate an additional £1 million ($1.3m) in spending.

The latest figures show that British residents of the UAE spent £1,250 per visit home on average, about twice as much as the global average of £696 in 2019.

It discovered they spent on average 10.7 days per visit and spent £117 each day. This is in comparison to the average international visitor who spent on average 7.1 nights in the UK, paying £696 per visit and £98 each night.

Understanding and Engaging with UK Expats in the UAE, which was funded last year, showed that more than half of those surveyed intend to visit Britain more than they did before the pandemic.

Building relationships with family and friends were the main reasons for travel. Most of those surveyed were eager to make this happen as soon as possible, with most expatriates planning to travel internationally once fully vaccinated.

The findings echo previous research by VisitBritain, which showed that 60 per cent of UAE-based travellers planned to visit friends and relatives on their next international trip, the highest among all 20 markets surveyed.

“This timely research on what motivates UAE expats to travel to Britain will support VisitBritain and our travel trade partners with valuable insights to harness the pent-up demand to drive bookings, extend the length and breadth of visits and boost spending, " said Tricia Warwick, VisitBritain's Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa director.

“Britain provides a stunning backdrop to cater for and create standout trips and memories with friends and family.

“By promoting our world-renowned cultural offers, our well-being and relaxation experiences, and our beautiful and varied landscapes from coast to countryside, we can tap into these motivators for expat travel and boost tourism to Britain.”

Researchers interviewed 300 people. Of those surveyed, 48 per cent lived in Dubai, 34 per cent in Abu Dhabi and 11 per cent in Sharjah. The rest were split between Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah.

Forty-three per cent originally came from London, 15 per cent were from Scotland and 15 per cent were from the East of England.

The research found that 63 per cent usually visited London on their return. Thirty-one per cent went to the East of England and 27 per cent paid a trip to Scotland.

“Before this project, this group had not been the subject of specific research from VisitBritain,” the report said.

New Years Eve lasers, drones and fireworks illuminate the sky in front of the Royal Naval College in Greenwich shortly after midnight in London, Britain, 01 January 2022.  EPA / VICKIE FLORES

“Sentiment data suggests that, post-Covid, visitors who have a pre-existing purpose for visiting the UK will become an important audience to drive recovery.

“Some of the most valuable of these visitors are likely to come from the UAE, so it is important to fully understand this audience in order to maximise their future spending potential.

“With this research, we aimed to gather robust numbers to gauge the potential of this audience, as well as get under their skin to understand their attitudes and behaviour in order to inspire strategies to engage with them.”

Last year, London's Heathrow Airport recorded a nearly 80 per cent drop in customers compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The UK’s soaring number of Covid-19 cases recently prompted France and Germany to impose travel bans on most passengers from Britain.

Despite the research revealing that expatriates are eager to make trips to Britain, visitors who were vaccinated against Covid-19 outside the UK have been reporting problems when they try to register for a digital health pass.

A lack of easily available appointments has led to people being told to travel hundreds of miles to get their medical records updated.

Updated: January 4th 2022, 4:47 PM