The Revenge Travel Phenomenon

Changing consumer needs and motivations are at the forefront of these themes and reflect the dynamic shifts we have seen in the travel landscape over the past 2 years whilst outlining the challenges the sector faces in the future. 

We uncover the actions and motivations of today’s multi-channel consumer, providing recommendations for brands to ensure they are well-positioned to serve today’s traveller and the travellers of the future.  

As the mass summer exodus from the Middle East takes off as residents seek cooler climates, we take a look at what is motivating travellers this summer. For many, it will be the first ‘normal’ travel experience in over two years; no PCR tests, no cancelled flights and no last-minute changes to plans when someone in the family comes down with Covid. In this climate, there is an overwhelming sense of "Revenge Travel" - a buzzword that's been making waves globally as the world of travel returns to pre-pandemic heights.  

But what does it mean?  

Revenge travel is the pent-up desire to explore new places and meet new people after a period that has felt static and dreary. It's about making up for lost time and, in a way, getting revenge against the pandemic that has restricted us for the past couple of years. 

And guess what?  

This trend has hit Saudi Arabia and UAE with full force. In June 2023, 28% of Saudi travellers took to the sky, with travel booking volumes exceeding pre-pandemic levels. As people return to travel, they're not just spending more—they're spending more consciously, seeking meaningful experiences. A whopping 66% of travellers are indulging in these experiences, with average order values for bookings and flights on the rise. 

Luxury isn't taking a backseat either. Half of the Saudi travellers are indulging in luxury experiences, opting for stays at five-star hotels this summer. While some destinations remain all-time favourites, there's a growing interest in new destinations to feed the travel bug.  

Travel Motivations in the UAE 

In the UAE, a staggering 98% of travellers have said they'll be spending more on travel in 2023 than they usually would.  

Luxury experiences are also in high demand in the UAE, with travellers opting for package deals at resorts this summer. And just like in Saudi Arabia, while some destinations remain all-time favourites, there's a strong interest in new destinations as visa access opens and travel restrictions are removed.  

UAE travellers are looking for true value where service, price, and leisure are the main factors in deciding their holiday destinations. 

Whether it's the revenge travel trend, the desire for luxury experiences, or conscious spending, it's clear that travel motivations in KSA and UAE are evolving. As we move further into 2023, these motivations will continue to shape the travel landscape in new ways. 

Regional Travel Trends in KSA and UAE 

In KSA, regional travel is topping the charts as Saudis are increasingly drawn to familiar destinations. The Middle East tourism sector saw a staggering year-on-year growth of 132% in Q1 of 2023. This growth is particularly clear in KSA, where Vision 2030 projects like NEOM and The Red Sea Project are coming to life.  

The country's recent openness to entertainment has sparked a surge in domestic travel, with a 7% increase in domestic bookings. Abha is emerging as a hot favourite, with bookings up by a whopping 125% compared to summer 2019.  

When it comes to international travel, 32% of KSA travellers intend to travel to regional destinations. Saudi's top favourites include: 

  • Dubai (48%) 
  • Beirut (45%) 
  • Cairo (36%) 
  • Abu Dhabi (26%) 
  • Petra (22%) 
  • and Manama (19%). 

 Switching gears to the UAE, the story is similar. The Middle East tourism sector's impressive growth has also impacted UAE travellers' motivations. The region's diverse offerings, from natural and heritage sites to cultural and religious tourism assets, appeal to a wide range of traveller segments. 

As Sandeep Walia, Chief Operating Officer, Middle East, Marriott International, puts it, "Our customers are prioritizing hassle-free breaks where they can relax and be looked after this year." In 2023, 30% of UAE travellers intend to travel to regional destinations.  

UAE's top travel destination picks include: 

  • Oman (48%) 
  • Beirut (44%) 
  • Cairo (38%) 
  • Rabat (23%) 
  • and Amman (19%). 

Both KSA and UAE travellers show a strong inclination towards regional travel, with a particular interest in familiar destinations. This trend reflects the broader growth of the Middle East tourism sector and the evolving travel motivations in the region. As we move further into 2023, it will be interesting to see how these trends continue to shape the travel landscape. 

MENA's Emerging Travel Trends in 2023 

As we navigate the changing landscape of travel in 2023, it's essential to understand that both Saudi and UAE travellers' evolving behaviours and motivations.  

👇🏼 Read below as we unpack the emerging trends in the region and delve into the unique 'traveller tribes' shaping MENA's travel behaviours. 

  1. Virtual Reality Tourism: one of the most intriguing trends we're seeing. Primarily used in the decision-making stage of the consumer journey, VR technology is proving to be a powerful tool in swaying hesitant consumers. It offers a virtual taste of the travel experience, helping potential travellers make informed decisions. Read more about travel in the metaverse. 
  2. Hobby Stacking: This involves travellers meticulously planning their trips around their hobbies and interests, such as sports, activities, or volunteering. These travellers seek more than just relaxation from their holidays; they want to stay active and engaged. Particularly among Gen Z, volunteerism is on the rise, aligning with their global trend towards more conscious and community-focused behaviour. 
  3. Workation: This is reshaping the way we perceive work and travel. As more organizations adopt fully remote work models, 'Work from Anywhere' has become the new norm. Several countries are now issuing digital nomad visas, making it easier for people to combine work and vacation. While this trend may not skyrocket, it's certainly here to stay, shaping the future of travel in the years to come. 

How can brands adapt to a new age of travel? 

In the 2010s, consumers have become more empowered, with increasing choice and ability to engage with brands on their terms. In the 2020s, the focus will shift to how brands can help meet consumers’ needs more effectively across all aspects of daily life. Here, we look at how a decade defined by bigger, bolder brands will more specifically shape the future of travel. 

  1. Personalization Perfected
    In the 2020s, the demand for hyper-personalized services will be central to consumer expectations of travel, as they increasingly seek brand-led optimization of services and products that can cater to their specific needs across travel booking, journeys/transport, accommodation and end destination activities. 
  2. Wellness Tourism
    As health and well-being infiltrate all areas of life, wellness travel in the 2020s will be about more than finding spiritual enlightenment on a yoga retreat or achieving serenity at a spa. In the coming years, consumers will look to give their mental well-being a boost through travel opportunities to rekindle positive relationships, reconnect with nature, and optimize specific wellness needs such as brain function or sleep quality. 
  3. Members-Only Travel
    In the 2020s, subscription and membership-based travel will become increasingly prominent, especially in the luxury travel sector. However, such models will also expand to target a growing set of consumer segments and identities, with travel brands becoming more holistic partners in servicing all travel needs for customers; tailored to their specific preferences and demands. 

Implications for Travel Brands  

▶ NOW 

  • Seek to build artificial extensions to existing locations that can provide novel and immersive nature experiences that have no negative environmental impact on biodiversity.
  • Explore the primary challenges facing key travel destinations, such as the impact of climate change, loss of biodiversity or over-tourism. Consider possible longer-term investments in new artificial locations that will be able to meet future customer demand at such locations (via the mitigation of the core challenges faced). 


  • Develop entirely new synthetic locations and destinations that offer unique experiences, creating natural habitats and ecosystems that can be found nowhere else.
  • Synthetic locations that combine environmental and biodiversity propositions, combined with the latest hybrid/extended virtual technology, will supply the level of exclusivity to attract global travellers, while also helping combat the main challenges facing the travel industry.
  • Such propositions will appeal to the luxury travel consumer landscape due to the level of exclusivity provided. However, such destinations can also be aimed at democratizing travel, by opening access to habitats and environments which in the real world are difficult or impossible to visit. 
    Want to know more about how to understand travellers' motivations in 2023 and beyond? Contact