Reports suggest UK shopping tourism booms as pound value drops
Anecdotal evidence suggests that while the plunging value of the pound may be bad news in many ways, it does have an upside. American tourists are taking advantage of the situation to book a visit to the UK and shopping is likely to be a key part of this.
The Times reported an increase in the number of wealthy tourists looking to lock in cheap prices for travel to the UK even if the pound rises in the weeks and months to come.
It spoke to Nick Longman, chief executive of Audley Travel (one of the largest tailor-made holiday companies in the US) who said that Americans looking to book trips to the UK had risen by 20% in just the last week.
Even if they're not travelling until next year, booking now means cheaper prices for things such as hotel accommodation. And that's all good news for UK retail even though the much talked about return of VAT-free shopping isn't happening just yet.
And Longman also said that customers on European tours are more often now requesting an extra day in the UK specifically for shopping. They’re more frequently asking about retail destinations, with Bicester Village a key request.
The pandemic hit UK retail hard, as it did for retail in all countries. But the UK didn't see the same level of recovery in ‘destination’ shopping cities as the removal of VAT-free shopping at the start of 2021 meant other European cities were more attractive from a purely shopping viewpoint.
The UK government is aiming to bring back VAT-free shopping for tourists by 2024, although retailers and other bodies are urging a return by mid-2023 and saying that the technology exists to make that happen.
However even without that, the falling value of the pound has automatically made UK retail prices cheaper for anyone spending in the currencies against which the pound has fallen.
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