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Pre-Ramadan rush for British Luxury still hits home

In spite of economic concerns linked to Brexit, the ‘pre-Ramadan’ rush still continues on across the UK, driven on by the pull of the weakened pound and the allure of British luxury according to new data from tax-free specialist Global Blue.

International tax-free shopping spend by Middle Eastern nations, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait grew 8 percent last month year on year and is up 12 percent for the year to date. Ahead of Ramadan, which runs from May 26 to June 24 this year, Middle Eastern visitors are known to take a luxury holiday before their month-long religious commitment. This surge in visitor spend comes despite reports indicating a slowdown in Middle Eastern economies.

Middle Eastern visitors led the way for Pre-Ramadan rush in the UK

“The ‘pre-Ramadan rush’ is a key annual calendar moment for UK retail tourism operators,” commented Gordon Clark, Global Blue Managing director for UK and Ireland, “reaffirmed by consistent year on year growth. Middle Eastern visitors have continued to make travel decisions to the UK in the face of low oil prices and, consequently, reduced economic growth forecasts.”

“The favourable exchange rates have, without a doubt, encouraged visitors’ UK purchasing behaviour, as well as the market’s sincere appreciation for British luxury goods accompanied by a high level of service.” Data from UKinbound shows that shopping remains one of the most popular activities in the UK for tourists, in particular for visitors from the Gulf States who spent over 1.5 million pounds in the UK in 2015.

Data from Global Blue confirms this, as Middle Eastern nations collectively account for the largest share of the international tax-free spend market in 2017 with 37 percent, 17 percent more than China at 20 percent. On average Middle Eastern shoppers spend 1,101 pounds per transaction. In particular, Qatari shoppers accounted for the highest average spend in April at 1,744 pounds per transaction, followed by the UAE at 1,318 pounds and Saudi Arabia at 1,082 pounds.

“With Ramadan ending in the last days of June, we anticipate a high volume of spend from Middle Eastern shoppers during July - a few weeks earlier than last year - contributing to another strong month for UK retail tourism.” Overall international tax-free spend in the UK increased 38 percent in April year on year, marking the tenth month of consecutive growth.

However, this increase was in large due to a boost in activity from China, the UK’s single largest [non-EU] tourist market, as visitor spend increased 81 percent. Visitor spend from the United States, another key market, grew 56 percent and Hong Kong visitors’ spend grew 50 percent.

Photo: Global Blue