A pre-Christmas splurge by rich tourists could save what has been a ‘suffering’ year for international spending in Britain, according to a new report. Analysts forecast China and Middle Eastern nations to lead the Christmas shopping spree with Chinese tourists still the biggest spenders in Britain.
Liverpool, Manchester and Edinburgh are now becoming international Christmas shopping destinations as well as tourist mecca London, according to the report. Tourism shopping tax refund firm Global Blue is predicting that the final quarter of 2014 will boost what has been a slow year in terms of international spend in Britain. VisitBritain’s figures show visitor numbers have seen the biggest growth in the fourth quarter over the last five years, while Global Blue reported soaring growth in spending of 16 per cent year-on-year for the final quarter of 2013.
Figures for the first 10 months of this year show China and Middle Eastern nations have remained strong as the highest spenders, with China representing 25 per cent of total spend, a five per increase on the previous year,, followed by Kuwait (eight per cent), Saudi Arabia (seven per cent) and Qatar (six per cent).
However, spending by Russian tourists in Britain is down 26 per cent so far this year amid political unrest in Ukraine, while weakening currencies have also seen growth from Thailand and other South East Asian nations suffer, with Thai spend also down 26 per cent. However, spending is expected to rise in the run-up to Christmas as tourists flock to snap up British gifts for family and friends that they can’t get at home.
Gordon Clark, UK country manager of Global Blue, said: ‘Christmas is one of the key periods for international shoppers coming to the UK.
Last year saw strong sales across the board, with all nations reporting significant growth.
Political turmoil and weakened currencies have left shoppers from some nations, particularly Thailand and Russia, less likely to spend in the UK this year, so retailers are focusing their services on targeting the traditional Chinese and Middle Eastern markets who have continued to contribute most significantly to sales. ‘Tax free shopping, more than ever, has become an integral part of the Christmas strategy for retailers.’
Patricia Yates, director of strategy and communications at VisitBritain, added: ‘London is an international Christmas shopping destination, but our numbers now show that major cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and Edinburgh are starting to emerge as strong alternatives.
Last year the North West of England was the second most popular destination for international shoppers. Shopping is a lucrative business.
‘High spending Qataris contributed an astonishing £5,077 per visit across Britain during the same period last year, that’s eight times the market average, so we continually look to tailor our overseas marketing to bring us the highest returns from such regions. ‘Whatever the price range or product, shopping allows the economic benefits of tourism to be spread across the whole country.’