Chinese tourists fly in to boost UK retail spend

Chinese tourists shop for items in Harrods. (Photo by James McCauley/Harrods via Getty Images)

An influx of Chinese tourists to the UK is bolstering retail spend and supporting a boom in the retail offerings at transport hubs such as airports and train stations, according to new figures released today.

Chinese tourists are already the biggest spending nationality when on their travels and collectively spent $261 billion whilst abroad in 2016, according to Colliers International.

In the UK alone, they are expected to spend more than £1bn by the end of this year, an increase of 100% on four years ago.

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A separate report from tourism shopping tax refund company Golden Blue also shows that Chinese year-on-year overseas retail spend has increased by more than 8% across Europe.

“Visa restrictions on Chinese nationals visiting the UK have historically kept tourism levels relatively low, however these policies have been relaxed and there is now an increasingly strong demand for outbound travel,” said Paul Souber, head of Retail Agency London and co-head EMEA Retail at Colliers International.

“In addition, there is an expanding network of international direct flights from China, which is helping to boost overseas retail spend.”

“We’ve noticed that retailers have seized the overseas spending opportunity by seeking advice about taking space at transport hubs. It’s fascinating to see how the retail offer at airports and stations is broadening,” Souber continued.

“With a population-in-motion of more than one billion people, some commentators are now referring to the travel sector as the world’s ‘sixth continent’. It certainly is a burgeoning specialist retail property sector that must be factored into the plans of any brand that is looking to establish an international profile.

“With the Chinese expected to spend more than £1bn in the UK by the end of this year (with around half that four years ago), it’s apparent that this is only the beginning and not the end of the summer holidays for retail.”

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