Market research in the UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has the second-largest economy in the Middle East, after Saudi Arabia, and GDP per capita is significantly higher than in the USA and major European markets.

The UAE is made up of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al Quwain. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are by far the most important in economic terms.

Much of the country’s wealth comes from oil exports, but Dubai has much smaller reserves than Abu Dhabi and consequently it has acted more quickly to diversify its economy. Today Dubai is a major transport and logistics hub, not just for the Gulf region but for the whole of the Middle East and Africa. It is also an important financial centre and a major tourist destination.

Dubai is the centre for most market research in the UAE but FieldworkHub also has capabilities in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. When conducting research in the UAE it is important to bear in mind that Emiratis make up fewer than one in five of the population and the proportion of Emiratis in Dubai is even lower. The largest expat communities are from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, followed by the Philippines. Western expats are estimated to account for around 8% of the total population.

Population (2020 estimate):9.9 million
GDP (USD, 2018):$414 billion
GDP per capita (International $ at PPP, 2018):$75 075
Currency:Dirham (AED)
Largest urban areas (by population, 2018 estimates):Dubai (2.8 million)
Sharjah (1.6 million)
Abu Dhabi (1.4 million)
Al Ain (0.7 million)


Dubai skyline at night with the city lit up in the background. Busy highways are visible in the foreground

Ethnographic research on personal mobility and energy in Dubai

A Middle Eastern corporation wanted to carry out ethnographic research on topics relating to personal mobility, lifestyle and convenience, and energy distribution in Dubai. Our work involved finding respondents with very particular B2C and B2B profiles including several ‘hard-to-reach’ groups, such as owners of electric vehicles. The sample needed to include Emiratis as well as ex-pats and high earners as well as those with more modest levels of income. We recruited around 100 respondents in total for two phases of research, and provided on-the-ground support including transport and interpreters.

Close up of UK visa in passport

Depth interviews with travel visa applicants based in India and the UAE

Our client was developing a new digital service to simplify the process of applying for international travel visas and wanted to conduct a series of depth interviews with people based in Delhi and Dubai who had recently applied for a UK visa and travel agency employees who regularly assisted their customers with UK visa applications. We successfully recruited 12 visa applicants in each country across a number of different categories (short-term business travel, relocating to take up a job in the UK, visiting friends and relatives, group travel, attending a UK university, and travelling for medical treatment) and three travel agency professionals in each country. The interviews were completed at a central location over the course of a week and the client was very pleased with the insights from the research.