Luxury retailers in the West End enjoyed a surge in spending from tourists from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman during the extended Islamic Eid holidays over the summer, according to new research.
This year Ramadan began on 26 May and culminated with the festival of Eid al-Fitr on 25 June. Saudi Arabia extended its public holiday by a week to run for 23 days to 8 July, compared with an 11-day break in 2016. Eid-ul-Azha was also extended to run from 1 to 4 September.
Spending from UAE visitors grew by 17% in the months between January and September, according to Global Blue’s tax free shopping data for the London Luxury Quarter association, which covers Mayfair, St James’s and Piccadilly. The average spend from UAE visitors was £1,401.
The average spend for Saudi nationals visiting the area was £1,554.
Footfall from visitors from Saudi Arabia grew 100% month on month in September, with Qatar and Kuwait following closely behind with increases of 81% and 46% respectively.
London Luxury Quarter said the area enjoyed a year-on-year increase of 30% in spending from visitors from Kuwait, 16% from tourists from Saudi Arabia and 15% from Qatari shoppers.
This contrasts with wider UK figures, which saw spending from UAE visitors overall drop by 22% during the same period, with the equivalent from Qatari tourists down by 21%.
London Luxury Quarter said the Eid holiday fell “advantageously for GCC [Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman] residents this September, meaning more time off work, making European destinations more readily accessible to prospective travellers”.
It added that the trend continues to be driven by the weaker pound.
Chairman Mark Henderson said: “Due to the longer Eid holiday, London became the overseas destinations of choice, with the London Luxury Quarter directly benefitting from this influx of visitors.
“The fact that London Luxury Quarter bucks the national trend in spending isn’t surprising, the area boasts the highest predominance of luxury brands, five star hotels and Michelin starred restaurants in the country, therefore it has an obvious pull for overseas visitors – particularly those from the Middle East – that simply can’t be replicated elsewhere in the UK.”