UK sees record breaking tourist spend in December
According to retail tourism experts Global Blue, spending by international visitors broke the previous year’s record by rising a further 11% on the 40% year-on-year increase seen in December 2013. However, 2014 ended with international spend down by 3% overall as economic and political factors influenced top spending nations.
Gordon Clark, UK country manager of Global Blue, said: “2014 was a turning point for how Christmas is a key period for international spend, a trend which we expect to continue. Unlike domestic, globe shoppers are not simply drawn by the heavy discounts but also by the added benefit of shopping these discounted goods Tax Free in the UK, at a time when the streets are festively decorated to look their best. In what has been a slower year for international spend, it is encouraging for retailers to see strength over this period.”
Spend by shoppers from Hong Kong saw the highest growth in December with a year-on-year increase of 48%. Meanwhile, Chinese spend rose by 20% in the month to beat growth seen over Chinese New Year and Golden Week last year, which have previously been the biggest spending periods.
China finished the year retaining its title as the number one shopper group representing 25% of total spend for 2014, but saw growth of just 6% year-on-year overall, significantly less than the double digit growth seen in 2013.
Middle Eastern nations also continued to see growth. Visitors from Qatar and Kuwait led the way with spending up by 33% and 24% respectively in December.
The only shopper market not to have reaped the benefit of Christmas was Russia which dropped off the list of top ten spending nations in December. The continual fall of Russia’s economy has left Russian tourists travelling abroad facing costs that have doubled in the course of the year, leading to a 28% year-on-year decline in spend by Russian visitors to the UK in 2014.
Visit Britain is predicting that international spend will pick up in 2015, with a total £22.2 billion expected to be spent, a rise of 4.5% year-on-year. However, Global Blue has warned that growth is slowing and that businesses will not see the type of rapid rise experienced in the last five years.
Global Blue expects Chinese and Middle Eastern shoppers to continue their growth as more shoppers are drawn to the appeal of shopping in the UK due to Tax Free shopping services, the ability to avoid Chinese luxury taxes and the relaxation of visa rules.
It also predicts that Lunar New Year and Golden Week will continue to be key periods for Chinese shoppers coming to the UK as will the pre and post Ramadan periods for Middle Eastern shoppers.
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