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Spend by Chinese visitors to the UK hits record level, giving UK retailers a much-needed boost

Press Release   •   Aug 17, 2015 00:00 BST

London, 17th August 2015: The UK retail and tourism industries have seen a significant boost from Chinese tourism spend this summer. Analysis of spending by Chinese Visa cardholders shows a 44.5% increase in money spent in the UK in July, outstripping tourist spending by visitors from France and Australia. This now makes visitors from China the second highest spending tourists in the UK, behind only those coming to Britain from the USA.

The growth in Chinese spending was driven primarily by dining out (up 66% in July over 2014), trips to supermarkets (up 79%) and shopping on the high street (up 40%). Retail therapy remained the top holiday activity, with £20 million spent on clothing, at department stores and on the high street in July. This makes up of 40% of Chinese overall holiday spend in the UK.

Despite strong growth seen in recent months, data from Visa Europe shows that the UK still trails behind the top five European destinations for Chinese tourists.

Country Annual spending growth by Chinese visitors on Visa cards in July 2015
Spain 75%
Switzerland 66%
Italy 63%
France 61%
Germany 57%

This may shift in the coming months as more Chinese tourists take advantage of the UK’s new visa scheme. Introduced on 1st July, this scheme allows Chinese visitors to submit the same application to both the UK and the European authorities at the same time. Chinese visitors would have previously had to submit a separate application to the UK, which is outside the European Schengen free-travel area.

Kevin Jenkins, UK & Ireland Managing Director Visa Europe said:

“China is one of the fastest growing sources of tourism income for the UK and it looks set to become an important driver of growth for the sector. Spending on cards has seen a significant boost as Chinese tourists travel to the UK, confident in the use of plastic overseas.

“The simpler twin visa system for Chinese nationals already looks to have given a big summer boost to the UK’s retail and tourism industries. Going forward it will be interesting to see whether our data indicates a short-term boost or a genuine shift in Chinese tourism to the UK.

“With shopping a top attraction for Chinese travellers, UK retailers are likely to consider additional ways to appeal specifically to this audience. Pre-travel marketing, multi-lingual staff and new product lines in store may be three things we see more of.”


About Visa Europe

Visa Europe is a payments technology business owned and operated by member banks and other payment service providers from 37 countries across Europe.

Visa Europe is at the heart of the payments ecosystem providing the services and infrastructure to enable millions of European consumers, businesses and governments to make electronic payments. Its members are responsible for issuing cards, signing up retailers and deciding cardholder and retailer fees. Visa Europe is also the largest transaction processor in Europe, responsible for processing more than 16 billion transactions annually – at a rate of 1,622 transactions per second at peak times.

There are more than 500 million Visa cards in Europe, while €1 in every €6 spent in Europe is on a Visa card. Total expenditure on Visa cards exceeds €2 trillion annually, with €1.5 trillion spent at point-of-sale.

Since 2004, Visa Europe has been independent of Visa Inc. and incorporated in the UK, with an exclusive, irrevocable and perpetual licence in Europe. Both companies work in partnership to enable global Visa payments in more than 200 countries and territories.

For more information, visit and @VisaEuropeNews

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