Russian tourist spending in UAE plummets amid weak rouble and declining oil prices

Russian tourists’ spending in the UAE plunged more than 50 per cent in the first quarter amid the rouble’s weakness and declining oil prices.

That was in line with the decline in tourist arrivals from Russia and CIS countries at Dubai International Airport in the first quarter.

In March, the number of passengers fell 31.7 per cent from the same period last year.


However, international tourists’ spending rose 5 per cent in the first quarter from last year, according to data from Network International (NI), a payment solutions provider in Dubai.

The biggest spenders by total volume were from the United States, Saudi Arabia, Britain, China and Kuwait.

Russia dropped to the seventh position in the first quarter from fourth place during the same period last year.

Tourists’ spending accounted for 29 per cent of all purchases processed through credit cards, debit cards and ATM transactions in the UAE, according to NI, which has Emirates NBD as its majority owner.

This year tourists’ spending is expected to rise 5 per cent, according to consultancy JLL.

“Tourist arrivals from Russia, western Europe and India are likely to be impacted by a stronger dollar compared to last year,” said Craig Plumb, head of research for the Middle East and North Africa at JLL, a professional services consultancy.

But he said there had been an increase in tourists from GCC countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Africa and “perhaps most significantly from China”.

“Mid-market and value brands are likely to grow more quickly than luxury brands, while food and beverage will be one of the fastest-growing sectors,” he said.

In terms of spending on individual purchases, Chinese tourists topped the list at Dh1,643, followed by the Saudis at Dh1,039, the Russians at Dh1,037 and the Kuwaitis at Dh988, according to NI data.

American tourists spent the most on airline tickets, but they, along with the Canadians and Australians, spent the least on hotels and food.

Kiran Pethani, owner of Cara Jewellers in the Dubai Gold and Diamond Park and the Deira gold souq, said sales had declined.

“My shop in Dubai Gold and Diamond Park is completely dependent on tourists. The sales there have halved so far this year because of the decline in Russian tourists and the weak euro,” he said, adding that Europeans made up about 80 per cent of his clientele.

Chinese tourists were number one in buying watches and jewellery, spending Dh13,116 on average.

Russian tourists remained the biggest spenders on clothes, coughing up Dh1,850 on average.

Saudi tourists spent the most on food, paying Dh288 on average a meal. They also spent the most on hotels, paying Dh2,118 on average for accommodation.

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