Influencers are on the move. An increasing number of Middle East creators are hopping across the continent to lead campaigns based in the UK. Brands such as Harrods and Bicester Village are the most common partners, turning to high-end Middle East talent for luxury content in particular.
- Visitors from the Gulf region – especially Saudi Arabia – spend more than the average tourist while visiting the UK.
- Harrods attributes 16% of its revenue to GCC tourists, while Bicester Village attributes 12.1%.
- Luxury brands are working with creators based in the Middle East to target affluent tourists.
According to Gulf News, the UK – particularly London – has re-emerged as one of the top destinations for UAE residents in 2023. Residents of Saudi Arabia are also flocking to the capital, with Gulf tourists in general ranking second only to Americans in terms of expenditure while visiting the UK. With an increasing number of affluent GCC residents choosing London as their go-to vacation, more luxury brands in the UK are incorporating them into their target demographic.
Why are brands turning to talent from the Middle East?
London is a top destination for tourists from the Middle East – and they are spending big while in the capital. According to UK Inbound Tourism Statistics, Gulf tourists spend an average of more than £2,150 per visit, which is three times that of other tourists. Tourists from Saudi Arabia are among the biggest spenders, typically staying for longer than other tourists (their average is 16 nights) and shelling out an average of £2,841.
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The UK is especially popular with those looking for a long-term escape from the Gulf region’s extreme summer heat. Lengthy vacations make it more of a second home than a holiday destination – which gives UK brands more of a reason to prioritise these tourists as regular consumers, especially when you consider the fact that the most affluent among this group reportedly do “a significant amount of their high-end shopping abroad”.
Harrods has previously noted the importance of tourists from the Middle East. Its managing director Michael Ward previously told Gulf Business that “16% of [its] clientele” came from the GCC in 2022, with these consumers seeking “rarity and exclusivity” when they shop.
The same is true of Bicester Village. Last year, shoppers from the MENA region represented 12.1% of all tracked sales at the designer outlet. Visitors from Kuwait, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar all ranked in its top ten highest spenders.
How are brands creating content with Middle East talent?
To “provide a bridge between the UK and the Middle East”, Harrods announced in 2022 that it would sponsor the third season of the podcast Gems of Arabia. The podcast aims to highlight “all the shimmering hidden gems of the Arab world” and has the honour of participating in a first-of-its-kind partnership with the luxury department store. Hosted by Saudi designer and “Arab empowerment specialist” Hatem Alakeel, the series sees him interview interesting Arab creators based in the UK.
Designer pop-ups have also been pushed by creators based between the UK and the Middle East. Kuwaiti stylist Noura Bin Haidar created an Instagram Reel to promote the Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama popup in Harrods in January, using regional hashtags such as #jeddahfashion, #saudifashion, and #bahrainstyle to further reach Middle East consumers. Harrods also leaned into Eid, working with Saudi calligrapher Lucy Khanam to personally embellish limited edition pieces in store at the Carolina Herrera counter.
Spend a week with me at the Carolina Herrera Harrods counter in celebration of Eid and their gorgeous new fragrance 😍 @carolinaherrera @harrods
Eid also provided content opportunities at Bicester Village. The likes of Noura Bin Haidar, How She Wears It, Turana Atash, Sarah Naja, and Fahreen Laskar attended a special Eid Al Adha dinner at the outlet village hosted by GINA Shoes, a fashion brand that exclusively serves London, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, and Qatar. Other high-end collaborations include that between Tiffany and Co and Rosemin Manji. The jewellery brand invited the Dubai-based creator to London, where she toured and promoted its Saatchi Gallery exhibition.
Go-to creators for UK campaigns
Ola Farahat is a luxury lifestyle creator who’s often in London and is currently spending the summer in the big city. She shares fashion content that often features matching fits with her young daughter.
Karen Wazen is a Lebanese creator and entrepreneur based in Dubai. London is a regular fixture on her travels, with her eponymous eyewear brand – Karen Wazen Sunglasses – previously hosting popups in Harvey Nichols (it’s retailed full-time in the Middle East version of the department store).
Modest fashion creator Salima Oui splits her time between Dubai and London. She shares outfit inspiration from both cities and is especially interested in upcycling and investing in pieces that stand the test of time.
Another London regular is Dubai fashion influencer Mariam AlYassi, who has taken her followers through her lengthy city adventures on multiple occasions. Maram Zbaeda Maalouf is a Lebanese, Dubai-based lifestyle blogger who often chooses London as her summer escape, working with The Biltmore Mayfair when she did so in 2022.
By Chloe James, Middle East correspondent for CORQ.