Brexit tourism: Pound slump fuels surge in foreign visitor spending in UK over Christmas period

Foreign visitors spent more than £725m in British shops during December

Josie Cox
Business Editor
Thursday 12 January 2017 19:04 GMT
Foreign visitors spent over £725 million in British shops during December
Foreign visitors spent over £725 million in British shops during December (Reuters)

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The beaten-up pound fuelled a surge in Brexit tourism to the UK over Christmas, according to figures published by Worldpay on Friday.

Foreign visitors spent more than £725m in British shops during December, according to the payments processor, leading to a 22 per cent swell in spending on foreign cards in the country during the month.

Worldpay says that this translates into a £130m increase over the same period last year in total spending on non-UK cards at retailers.

The pound has endured a battering since June’s shock Brexit vote, depreciating around 18 per cent since the referendum. As a result, tourists who earn a living in other currencies have in effect been able to buy British goods at much lower prices than if sterling had remained stable.

High-end boutiques and department stores in London’s West End proved particularly popular destinations for bargain hunters, with foreign spending there up 35 per cent on the 2015 figure.

What does the falling pound mean for you?

Tourists from Hong Kong drove the trend by spending 69 per cent more in UK stores than they did in 2015. Chinese tourists spent 24 per cent more, while those travelling from France and Germany spent around 14 per cent more.

Beyond the capital, shops in Manchester and Edinburgh received a boost too. Year-on-year spending by those travelling from abroad rose by 19 per cent and 24 per cent respectively for the month in those cities, according to Worldpay.

“Bricks and mortar retailers have not had things all their own way this Christmas, with the latest reports suggesting UK consumers are increasingly doing the bulk of their shopping online,” said James Frost, Worldpay’s chief marketing officer in the UK, said. “So the influx of free-spending tourists will have been a welcome boost for retailers looking to balance the books.”

Separate figures from research firm Kantar Worldpanel showed this week that British shoppers spent almost half a billion pounds more on groceries in the lead up to Christmas than they did in the same period last year.

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