Visitors from Asia prove crucial to UK economy as EU visitors show a dramatic decline, Global Blue reports


Following what the British Retail Consortium declared to be ‘the worst Christmas for 10 years’ Tax Free Shopping expert Global Blue has released its latest insights report on International visitor spend in the UK in 2018, painting a more positive picture and demonstrating the value that international travelers continue to add to the UK retail sector.

The report shows that average spend per month by visitors from China, Hong Kong and Singapore was higher in 2018 compared to the previous year, demonstrating that the UK remains an attractive destination for these tourists to shop.

The Tax Free Shopping expert also forecasts a 4% growth in international transactions in the next 90 days, compared to the same period last year. The upcoming Chinese New Year will also offer UK business a major opportunity to boost sales as interest continues to be strong to visit the UK during this period.

According to Visit Britain, forward flight booking data from China to the UK was up 24% from 30 January to 12 February 2019 compared to 2018. Transactions are however expected to soften from Chinese visitors as consumer confidence dips as a result of the economic slowdown in mainland China.

Despite this, Chinese tourism continues to be key to the UK economy and represent 32% of total tax free spend with an average spend per transaction of £919, topped only by Qatar and UAE who spent an average of £1,512 and £1,011 per transaction respectively. While visiting the UK, Chinese visitors are most likely to spend their money on ‘Leather Goods and Bags’, accounting for 35 % of the sales on these items in store, followed by ‘Shoes and Accessories’ (26%) and ‘Fashion’ items (24%).

Derrick Hardman, managing director UK and Ireland at Global Blue, said: “Following a year of uncertainty amidst Brexit, it is comforting to see that visitors from outside the EU continue to value the UK as a great place to visit and shop. The Chinese New Year is a prime time for the Chinese to travel and they continue to rank the UK as a top destination due to the unique combination of luxury retailers, culture, history and excellent service.”