LONDON — Global Blue, the tax-free shopping group, said figures for the first quarter show shoppers from Southeast Asian territories are catching up with Chinese tourists in terms of U.K. spend.
The organization said that in the three months to March 31, tourists from Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand accounted for 11 percent of the tax-free spend in the U.K., and are among the top 10 spending nations.
“The Q1 figures have highlighted the SEAT [region’s] growing desire to shop in the U.K. as they follow their Chinese neighbors. Early summer has been clearly identified as the prime time for travel, and is now as significant as Golden Week is for the Chinese in terms of the U.K.’s international shopper calendar,” said Gordon Clark, country manager, U.K. and Ireland, at Global Blue.
Hong Kong is the new top spender to look out for, Global Blue said, with the most significant rise in spend for the first quarter. The increase was 38 percent year-on-year, more than any other nation including China, whose growth was 10 percent in the period.
Thailand and Malaysia have both shrugged off recent macroeconomic woes — and their denizens have started shopping again. “Despite severe political unrest seen across Thailand last summer, spend by Thai shoppers climbed 11 percent year-on-year for Q1,” said Clark, adding that Malaysia has also recovered following the collapse in oil prices last June.
“They are climbing back this year, and March in particular saw a huge increase of 34 percent year-on-year for the month as they extended their stay around the Lunar New Year celebrations. As the second country after China to believe shopping is the most important past time when traveling, their strength is expected to continue as economic factors resolve,” he said of the Malaysians.