Brexit’s weaker pound strengthens UK tourist spending, Global Blue reports

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The UK has enjoyed a wave of income from tourist spending as visitors enjoy the weaker pound in the wake of Brexit. A 7% overall increase in UK international Tax Free Shopping spend in July has been recorded by retail tourism expert, Global Blue. The latest year to date figures show Asian nations and the US are largely responsible for the positive cash injection.

Japan, Indonesia and the US were the visiting nations that accounted for the biggest increase in UK International Tax Free spend for July. Despite Japan’s economic woes, spend by Japanese visitors was up 96% in the UK compared to July 2015, while travellers from Indonesia spent 88% more than last year on International Tax Free shopping.

Chinese tourists’ International Tax Free Shopping spend in the UK was up just 6% for July, but the nation still accounted for the largest portion of spend overall, with a 32% share of the total spend. Although the number of transactions made by Chinese travellers in the UK was down -6% last month, average spend for July increased by 13% to £840 per transaction, showing the interest for Chinese travellers to visit the UK to shop remains strong.

Travellers from the US – who in July were the second largest nationality shopping Tax Free in the UK, with a 7% share of the total spend – also capitalised on the Great British Pound to United States Dollar exchange rate. This lead to their sales in store from Tax Free Shopping increase by 46%, driven by a 20% increase in their number of Tax Free Shopping transactions, and a 22% increase in their average spend to £734 in the UK. Hong Kong travellers followed closely in third position with a 6% share of total spend in the UK and a 29% increase in their sales in store.

Furthermore, the smaller growth in July from Middle Eastern visitors – Qatar at +29% and UAE at +4% – is due to Ramadan’s late calendar start this year, which is set to contribute to a strong August. Despite this, Qatar remained the nation with the highest average spend per transaction for July, at £1,642.

Gordon Clark, managing director UK and Ireland for Global Blue, said: “Though the weaker pound following the referendum was initially unwelcome news, it has proved perfect timing for tourists visiting the UK; enjoying our British leisure, luxury and cultural offering during the summer season.

“The cash injection we have seen off the back of this has been hugely beneficial for our tourism economy. As the pound still fluctuates, we hope the flurry of tourist activity to the UK has inspired others to follow suit and visit and shop in the UK, where they can see a large discount from exchange rate benefits, but also from Tax Free Shopping through Global Blue.”

“Although Japan and Indonesia account for just 1% and 2% of total International Tax Free shopping in the UK, it is positive to see the increase in their spend, alongside the other top visiting nations like India and Thailand. It is reassuring to see that the demand for British quality, service and shopping remains strong and is currently outperforming the rest of Europe.”

According to VisitBritain’s 2015 statistics, July to September was the most popular season for international travellers to the UK, which leaves room for further optimism around August and September UK International Tax Free spend figures.