VisitBritain research analyses top motivations for UAE expat travel

New research from Britain’s national tourism agency VisitBritain provides valuable insights to harness the pent-up demand from British expats to visit the UK and to boost visitor spending.

The research ‘Understanding and engaging with UK expats in the UAE’ shows that more than half of those surveyed intend to visit the UK more than they did pre-COVID. It also reinforces the importance of face-to-face- connections and building relationships with family and friends as key drivers for travel. Those surveyed were eager to make this happen as soon as possible with most expats planning to travel internationally once fully vaccinated.

The findings echo VisitBritain’s latest wave of inbound sentiment research, which showed that 60% of UAE travellers planned to visit friends and relatives on their next international trip, the highest among all 20 markets surveyed.


UK expats living in the UAE spend £1250 per visit on average, twice as much as the global average of £696 in 2019


As well as quality time with family and friends, the research found that expatriate visitors are drawn by the UK’s culture and are looking for experiences centered on cultural activities, as well as relaxation and escape. The UK was also valued for its varied seasons, green landscapes and serene coastlines.

VisitBritain Director Asia Pacific, Middle East, Africa Tricia Warwick said: "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.

“Britain provides a stunning backdrop to cater for and create stand-out trips and memories with friends and family. By promoting our world-renowned cultural offer, our wellbeing 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.”

UK expats living in the UAE already stay longer and spend more than the average visitor, spending £1250 per visit on average, twice as much as the global average of £696 in 2019, and staying 11 nights compared to seven. The research showed that extending trip length for just 1 per cent of the expat population to an extra four nights would equate to an additional £1 million in spend coming into the UK.

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