Mastercard Economics Institute Releases Travel Industry Trends 2023

June 14, 2023 | Dubai, united Arab Emirates
  • Saudi Arabia and Egypt joins the UAE in the top 10 destinations list for the first time in the history of this report for travelers
  • From January-March, leisure flight bookings in the UAE were up 49.5% in 2023 compared to the same time period in 2022
  • Looking specifically at March 2023 vs. March 2022, experiences were up 5% YoY in Morocco


Dubai, United Arab Emirates – 14 June 2023: New insights from the Mastercard Economics Institute reveal that consumers, including those from Middle East and Africa (MENA), are taking advantage of a more traditional travel ecosystem in 2023, prioritizing leisure travel and pioneering new corridors around the world. The Travel Industry Trends 2023 report delivers key insights about the global state of travel, punctuated by shifting economic landscapes, persistent consumer demands, and a reopening mainland China.

In the face of economic headwinds, post-pandemic preferences for experiences over things1 consistent demand for leisure travel shape the 2023 outlook. Initially lagging behind leisure travel, business travel found its footing in the latter half of 2022, especially in cultures prioritizing a return to office. With an uncertain economy providing some cross-market turbulence, mainland China’s reopening is expected to bolster growth globally.

Key findings include:

  • Travelers establish new corridors. In 2023, a new dynamic emerged, with travelers exploring destinations closer to home. Egypt and Saudi Arabia made the top 10 rankings this year, in seventh and eighth place, respectively. The U.K., U.S., UAE and France remain the most popular international destinations for travelers leaving the Middle East.
  • Leisure and business travel are growing at the same pace. Global leisure and business travel are now growing at the same rate, a 42% year-over-year-to-date change from 2022 to 2023. In the second half of 2022 into early 2023, corporate flight bookings caught up to leisure in regions with a strong return to office culture. From January to March 2023, leisure travel bookings in the UAE were up 49.5% compared to the same period in 2022.
  • Tourists continue to prioritize experiences. Preference for experiences over things persists, and travelers worldwide are demonstrating new demand for the unique. Potentially influenced by social media and entertainment, travelers are landing in lesser-known destinations in search of cultural immersion. Global spending on experiences is up 65% while spending on things is up 12% compared to 2019. In the MENA region, experience-oriented spending is surging in certain countries, such as Morocco, where it was up a whopping 117.5% year-over-year by March 2023.
  • Travel and entertainment recovery for businesses is on the rise. In the MENA region, travel and entertainment (T&E) spending by small businesses was up 49% when comparing March 2023 to March 2022. The upward trajectory continues – from January to March 2023, T&E spending by small businesses is up 56% compared to the same period in 2022.When comparing March 2023 to March 2019, spending is up 78% in MENA. Large businesses observed growth as well, but at smaller rates of 14%, 40% and 37% respectively for the corresponding periods.


“One of the central themes of the Travel Industry Trends 2023 report is an emphasis on experiences over things – a strong preference among travelers that followed the easing of mobility restrictions. Also shaping the industry this year are the different ways people travel. We were pleased to see Saudi Arabia and Egypt make it among the top 10 favorite destinations of travelers. This rise in popularity testifies to the successful post-pandemic recovery of key markets across the Middle East and North Africa,” said David Mann, Chief Economist, Asia Pacific and EEMEA, Mastercard.

Comprehensive Support to Travelers & Tourism Sector

Travelers want a good experience from the time they book their plane ticket to their first step on new soil, and companies that understand that are better positioned to establish longer and more valuable relationships with their consumers. This key shift in expectations has already started to change not only how companies work with their consumers, but also the way in which we travel. And though consumer behavior will continue to shift alongside the macroeconomic environment, providing more choice in how to pay (like redeeming points for bookings), and tailoring experiences, recommendations, and offers are just two strategies that keep the individual traveler at the center of engagement.

Mastercard delivers peace of mind, convenience and value for consumers and businesses of all sizes as they adjust to the return of travel. Whether their journey is near or far, consumer, corporate and T&E cardholders have access to an expanding list of programs, platforms and partnerships. Mastercard Travel & Lifestyle Services provides travel planning, offers, booking, guarantees and 24/7 hands-on concierge support. While in destination, gives travelers access to once-in-a-lifetime experiences, benefits, and offers like Mastercard Travel Rewards. And, for small business travelers, Mastercard Easy Savings offers discounts and purchasing power at digital business service providers, fine-dining restaurants and international retailers and hotels.

Mastercard is dedicated to helping the global tourism sector recover and welcome travelers through a range of services, from market analysis and high-frequency data insights that help make sense of changing consumer trends to marketing solutions and consumer engagement strategies that drive brand loyalty and maximize bookings.

You can view the full Travel Industry Trends 2023 report here. For more information on Mastercard’s travel benefits and experiences, please visit Other reports and insights from the Mastercard Economics Institute can be found here.  

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