The rise of an emerging middle class will transform the travel and tourism industry in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) over the next decade, according to global payments technology company Visa.
Speaking at the Visa Travel & Payment Trends Seminar in Dubai, the company’s senior director and international economist, Richard Lung, identified three key global trends that will shape the industry between now and 2025: a new “travelling class”, increasing digital connectivity and an ageing population.
By 2025, annual spending on global cross-border travel will reach $1.5 trillion from $1.1 trillion currently, with growth driven by an increasing number of middle income families, according to Visa’s ‘Mapping the Future of Global Travel and Tourism’ study. Households making $20,000 (Dh73,460) or more annually account for 90 per cent of all international travel.
Visa estimates that more than 37 million Mena households will fall into this category by 2025, with more than 40 per cent of this new travelling class taking at least one international trip per year.
Visa estimates that the Mena region will see the number of annual outbound trips rise from 42 million in 2016 to 65 million by 2025. This may, in turn, lead to regional outbound travel spend increasing annually by 3.6 per cent, from $77 billion to $110 billion by 2025, with the middle class accounting for approximately two thirds of growth.
In addition to spending more, these travellers will be fully connected digitally and consequently better informed about their destination options, modes of transportation, accommodation choices and costs. Visa says this will foster not only greater spontaneity in travel among tourists from the Mena region, but also a broader array of personalised travel and tourism options as well.
The Mena region’s young demographics, where two-thirds of the population is under 35, will help to counter the impact of the third key trend, an ageing global population. Approximately one in 10 people globally will be over the age of 65 by 2025, with older travellers taking about only half as many trips as the average person.
The focus for many in this group is comfort and health rather than saving money, and Visa believes medical tourism is primed for accelerated growth as older travellers seek new treatments, as well as lower-cost or higher-quality care not available in their home country.
Visa says that destinations such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which have invested heavily in their healthcare infrastructure, could be positioned to benefit from this trend.
Lung said: “Global tourism finds itself at a crossroads, with three key mega trends all pointing towards an era of transformation. The Mena region is not isolated from these forces, and is set to gain more than most, given the extent of its growing middle class. The next decade will be one of significant change for the travel and tourism industry and all participants need to start planning for an exciting new future now.”