As global travellers intend to increase budgets for their next trip by an average of five per cent this year, Saudi tourists retain their position as the biggest spenders on the planet by spending an average of $6,666 per trip.

While budgets are no longer among the top three reasons for travellers in choosing their next holiday destination, the pull of attractions, scenery and rich culture are instead stronger reasons for travel, finds a study by Visa.

According to Global Travel Intentions Study 2013, which surveyed 12,631 travellers from 25 countries, the average global travel budget of $2,390 per trip is set to increase to $2,501.

Some holidaymakers even suggest that they would more than double what they spent on their previous trip, said the Visa study.

Following Saudi Arabians, top spenders abroad are Australian ($4,118) and Chinese travellers ($3,824).

Last year, another report by Visa revealed that in terms of Visa account holders’ spending in the UAE, Saudi Arabia is the fastest-growing GCC country with spending rising 73.8 per cent in 2011.

Travellers from the Middle East and Africa spend an average of $218 per day during their trip — slightly lower than the global average of $239 per day, the study revealed.

“Future travel budget increases are especially high amongst Asian markets with a predicted increase of 46 per cent — travellers from Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong all plan to at least double the budget of their last trip in the future,” said the study.

The study revealed the United States ranked as the most popular destination for global travellers, both for trips taken in the past two years (17 per cent) and for intended travel in 2013 (10 per cent).

Other top destinations in 2011 and 2012 included the United Kingdom (12 per cent), France (12 per cent) and China, Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong (all 10 per cent). Looking ahead, regional travel is set to increase with Egypt, Turkey and France emerging on the latest list of most preferred destinations for future travel for residents in the Middle East and Africa, or MEA.

The report noted that the increasing popularity of the MEA is partially driven from within the region. Among travellers across the four global regions — including Apac, the Americas, Middle East and Africa, and Europe — respondents from the MEA indicated a strong intention (76 per cent) to travel more in the future — primarily residents from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE. Much of this increased travel is expected to take place within the region and Asia where 24 per cent of travellers in the region having chosen to take trips in the last two years.

An increasing ease and availability of travel options is fuelling the tourism boom. This is particularly prominent in the airline industry where 85 per cent of travellers prefer to fly to their destinations despite a preference for shorter distances.

Of this figure, most (71 per cent) chose to fly economy class while, perhaps surprisingly, only 16 per cent chose budget airlines, the study shows.

According to the report, today’s global travellers are seasoned, with 79 per cent travelling in the past two years, taking one to two trips per year. About 80 per cent plan their holidays in advance, taking an average of 10 weeks to organise the trip. Spending time with family and friends was cited as the most popular reason (38 per cent) for a holiday. These trips are more likely to be organised independently (42 per cent) and will last an average of 10 nights.

“Global economic woes have been well-documented over the past few years but our Visa Global Travel Intentions Study 2013 hints at a change in both the financial landscape and consumer mindset, suggesting either economic recovery or a growing appetite for larger travel budgets. Both provide excellent news for everyone involved in the global travel and tourism industry,” said Ross Jackson, head of Cross-Border in the Asia-Pacific, Central Europe, Middle East and Africa at Visa.

(c)2013 the Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates). Distributed by MCT Information Services.