Welcome to Britain: Overseas visitors go shopping to the tune of £4.5bn in a year

Overseas tourists to the UK spend more than £4.5bn in Britain's shops each year, with "personal shopping" requests a growing trend for the worlds' super wealthy.

A new survey by the national tourism agency VisitBritain found the £4.5bn spent in shops in 2011 was up more than 7 per cent on the previous year. Initial data for 2012 reveal the figure has jumped to more than £4.7bn.

Nearly 300,000 visitors came to Britain solely to shop with personal shoppers – spending more than £168m in 2011.

The VisitBritain survey also found that £2.3bn was generated by fashion-conscious foreign tourists spending on clothing.

Shopping in Harrods was chosen as a top activity by almost one in five respondents – making it a more popular choice than visiting Harry Potter locations or the theatre.

However, Michael Ward, the managing director of Harrods, said: "Despite the good figures for Britain, the spend in France is eight times this. We really need to address visa and airport capacity issues to compete globally."

VisitBritain said the results showed that shopping in Britain was rated above France in terms of value. Those from long-haul markets said London was better value for money than Paris.

Sandie Dawe, the chief executive of VisitBritain, said: "Shopping in Britain is seen around the world as a positive and welcoming experience."

She added: "A huge number of visitors also make the trip to seek out bargains, whether it's finding the best deals at designer outlets or hitting the high street in Edinburgh or Manchester."

The biggest-spending tourists were from the Middle East, Nigeria and China but the largest numbers of visitors came from France.

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