Middle East tourists are the real big spenders


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The Independent Online

Tourists from the Middle East are the biggest spending shoppers in Britain, according to a survey showing Kuwaitis and Qataris pay out an average of £3000-£4000 per visit.

Every year before and after the holy month of Ramadan – which started earlier this month – tourists from the Middle East descend on Britain and when they are here, they shop.

The latest research from national tourism agency Visit Britain found that Middle Eastern visitors are twice as likely as other holidaymakers from other nations to spend on handbags, cosmetics and toys.

As the summer hots up, the number of tourists hits its peak with well in excess of 18 million visitors expected each year here. While Visit Britain has long been able to track where people come from and when they arrive in the UK, for the first time it has surveyed what they actually buy when they are here.

Of all tourists, two fifths return home with clothes and shoes and one in four with food and drink to take back to people at home.

Patricia Yates, director of strategy at VisitBritain, said: “This new research considers more than just high-end retail purchases and reveals that overseas guests want to spend their money on a wide range of products from bags and purses to expensive items for the home.”

Ms Yates noted that fashion purchases were top, but souvenirs and food and drink were also snapped up in their millions.

The feedback from visitors revealed Britain’s food and drink is in huge demand – for example nearly a third of French people took home food.

Tourists also appeared to love Britain’s shops more than traditional activities such as the theatre with ‘Shopping in Harrods’ as a top activity by almost one in five respondents when asked to select their top three “only in Britain” dream holiday activities.

Michael Ward, Harrods managing director said he thought Harrods was so popular because it combined “British heritage and history” the “finest luxury products” and “incredible customer service”.

One nationality missing from the top 10 of the Visit Britain survey were the Chinese. Some businesses have complained restrictions on visas for the nations has held them back. Although Chinese shoppers did not appear high up in the Visit Britain report, they are still a top spender in the capital.

Richard Dickinson, chief executive of the New West End Company which represents more than 600 businesses in the west end, said: “Middle East and China remain the top spending nations in the West End, with the latter spending on average £1,368.”

Despite the apparent demand for British wares, experts focused on the luxury sector are concerned there is a spending slowdown in London. Experts warn that the strong pound, a slowdown in the economy in China and Brazil, election uncertainty in India and the unrest in Ukraine - affecting Russian visitors - could be causing a slowdown in high spending visitors here.