Spending by tourists visiting the UK, especially from Hong Kong, China and the Middle East, surged in December with the pound slumping after the Brexit vote, according to a survey released on Friday. “Foreign visitors spent over 725 million pounds ($884 million, 830 million euros)… in December, as the weakened pound prompted an influx of bargain hunting ‘Brexit tourists’ to the UK over the Christmas period,” said a report from card payments processor Worldpay.
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It said spending on foreign cards surged 22 per cent year-on-year, handing an extra 130 million pounds to UK retailers compared with the same month in 2015. Worldpay said visitors from Hong Kong spent an extra 69 per cent in UK stores last month. Spending on Chinese cards was up by 24 per cent, while traditionally big-spending visitors from the UAE spent almost a third more.
US and Russian outlay grew also by around a quarter. And the amount spent by French and German tourists over the festive period was up by 14 per cent. “UK retail centres, including London’s West End, are a magnet for visitors from all over the world, made all the more attractive by the bargains on offer as a result of the weakened pound,” said James Frost, chief UK marketing officer at Worldpay. The pound has struck 31-year lows against the dollar and eight-year troughs versus the euro since Britain voted in June to exit the European Union, making the UK an attractive place for foreign visitors holding stronger currencies.
Irish spend was up more than 46 percent, although this likely included a number of people holding euros from southern Ireland simply crossing the border into Northern Ireland where the currency is sterling. Swiss-held cards meanwhile showed a drop in spending of 1.8 per cent in December, according to Worldpay data.