Visitors are spending more in the UAE
Overall tourist spending in the UAE rose by 5 per cent in the first quarter of the year compared to the same period in 2014 according to a new study by Network International, the leading payment solutions provider in the MENA region. The report, based on credit or debit card transactions by country in the first quarter of 2015, found that Americans accounted for the largest portion of total spending in the quarter with 21 percent. Tourists from Saudi Arabia came next (12 percent), followed by UK (9 percent), China (4 percent) and Kuwait (3.4 percent).
The Russian Rouble crisis has had a major impact on spending by Russian tourists which dropped by 52 percent in Q1, taking the country out of the top five spenders for the first time in recent history. Despite coming in the top five, Chinese spend is down by 7 percent on the same period last year. These drops were offset by significant growth in spending from the USA up 9 percent, KSA up 25 percent and Canada up 53 percent since last year
Unsurprisingly, given distance travelled, Americans, Canadians and Australians spend the most of any nationality on airfare. However, once they arrive they spend the lowest average amounts on hotels and meals. The Chinese spend twice as much (average transaction value of AED 13,000) on watches and jewellery as the next tier down, comprising the Russians, Americans and Swiss. Anecdotally, recent tightening of anti-corruption legislation has been impacting Chinese Average Transaction Value (ATV) as they are less likely to buy multiple watches in a single transaction.
Commenting on the results of the research, David Mountain, Chief Commercial Officer, Network International, said: “Each of these spending behaviours provides useful insight on market segmentation and positioning to retailers in the UAE. However, when looked at through a geopolitical lens, movements in currency and the affluence of nations, the data presented can have profound effects on different markets.”
“Network International is the leading merchant acquirer in the UAE and processes well over half of all merchant transactions in this market. Accordingly, we are able to see trends and patterns in spending which are indicative of the overall market. This provides valuable data for not only merchants and businesses but also for the government in assessing the continuing appeal of the UAE to international visitors.”
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”