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Travelers from the UAE and Saudi Arabia plan to increase their spending on breaks and holidays over the next three years and will have more of an eye on sustainability than ever before. In fact, most now check the sustainability of their travel plans, and are prepared to pay over 20 percent more for environmentally-friendly accommodation.

Meanwhile, artificial intelligence will become a key tool for holiday planning — with half of people in both the UAE (52 percent) and the Kingdom (50 percent) already using it for this purpose. Moreover, “dupe” destinations — that are similar to traditional holiday destinations but closer and cheaper — will be another key theme.

In addition, “slow holidays” — where travelers take their time, connect with the local culture, disconnect from technology and minimize their impact on the environment — will be another significant trend.

These are the key outtakes from the Middle East findings of Marriott Bonvoy’s 2024 Future Travel Trends research, in collaboration with foresight agency The Future Laboratory, which analyzed the travel plans of 14,000 travelers across Europe and the Middle East over the next three years.

Neal Jones, chief sales and marketing officer, Marriott International — Europe, Middle East and Africa, said: “Two trends we have seen coming to the fore in particular from the consumer research are sustainability and AI — particularly among younger travelers under the age of 45. Being ecologically responsible is moving from being a ‘nice-to-have’ to a ‘must-have’ for many of these travelers and will only become more so.”

The rise of AI

The era of AI holiday planning is very much here — half or more (52 percent from the UAE and 50 percent from the Kingdom) have used AI to help them plan or research a holiday. Meanwhile, 77 percent in both countries say they are likely to use it in the future, showing the trend is set to grow further still.

Amongst those who did use AI, 95 percent in both the UAE and Saudi Arabia say it influenced their holiday decision in some way. This includes booking the accommodation it recommended, booking the activities it recommended, and booking food it recommended.

Emerging trends

Amongst the emerging travel trends, “slow holidays” are becoming increasingly popular. Four in five travelers from the UAE (82 percent) and 77 percent from the Kingdom say they have already been on a “slow” holiday. Meanwhile, 82 percent from the UAE and 80 percent from the Kingdom say they plan to go on a slow holiday in the next three years.

In addition, “dupe destinations” — such as the vineyards of Northern Spain instead of South Africa or surfing in Portugal instead of Hawaii — will be another key theme.

Solo holidays, something 70 percent of travelers from the UAE and 69 percent from the Kingdom who have been away in the past three years have done in that period, will also continue to be a significant trend, with 70 percent from the UAE and 72 percent from the Kingdom planning to do one.

Changing summer plans

The extremely high temperatures that parts of Europe experienced this summer could be set to impact holiday plans in the coming years for Middle Eastern holidaymakers. Eighty-six percent in the UAE and 83 percent in the Kingdom say that if these temperatures became a regular occurrence, it would impact their summer holiday plans.

Spending and sustainability

More than nine in 10 UAE adults (93 percent) and 89 percent of adults from the Kingdom say they will be going on holiday next year. Of those going on holiday next year, 66 percent from the UAE and 69 percent from the Kingdom say they plan to “spend more than usual” on holidays over the period.

Over the next three years, sustainability will be on the agenda more than ever before. More than eight in 10 from the UAE (83 percent) and a similar number from the Kingdom (78 percent) say they would be happy to pay more for environmentally friendly accommodation.

Value for money

Whilst on the whole spending on holidays is set to increase, travelers will continue to seek good value for money and save where they can. A third of Emirati and Saudi travelers (both 32 percent) will try to save by going on more domestic holidays. And 34 percent from the UAE and 29 percent from the Kingdom will use loyalty programs to pay for some or all of their holiday with points.

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