UK economy set for much-needed spending boost thanks to Chinese tourists

James Warrington
Follow James
Behind The Scenes At Chinese New Year As Chinatown Prepares To Usher In Year Of The Sheep
Flight bookings from China to the UK increased ahead of Chinese New Year (Source: Getty)

The UK economy is set to receive an international spending boost as tourists from outside the EU continue to splash out in spite of Brexit worries.

International spend will increase four per cent year-on-year over the next 90 days, according to forecasts from tourism shopping firm Global Blue.

Read more: China's success will depend on the desirability of the brand

The rise in international visitors shows the UK continues to attract visitors from outside of Europe, with Chinese tourists making up the largest share.

Flight bookings from China jumped 24 per cent between 30 January and 12 February as an increasing number of visitors choose to spend Chinese New Year in the UK, according to tourism agency Visit Britain.

The figures will be a welcome boost for the British high street, which has experienced torrid trading in recent months amid increased online competition, rising rates and a decline in footfall.

Shops have also been hit by consumer caution in the run-up to Brexit, with data from the Office for National Statistics showing London welcomed 750,000 fewer visitors from EU countries last year.

In addition to the growth in international visitors, the average spend per month by tourists from China, Hong Kong and Singapore increased in 2018 compared to the previous year.

But the spending spree may not continue into the Chinese New Year, as weak economic growth in China is expected to impact tourist transactions.

Read more: Retail sales tick up thanks to January sales

Brian Bickell, chief executive of the UK China Visitor Alliance, told City A.M.: “Chinese tourists are by far the world’s highest spenders when they travel overseas.”

“London’s Chinese New Year celebrations - the largest outside China - will attract huge crowds and growing numbers of Chinese tourists to Chinatown and across the West End, making it one of the busiest weekends of the year,” he added.