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Arab Tourism in London, why it's important

In the past month, the UK has played host to a variety of events that attracted high-end visitors: Wimbledon Tennis Tournament, Glastonbury, and Goodwood among these. These events highlight the already thriving London travel season, as tourists come from around the world to take part in all the luxury experiences the city has to offer. This is most clearly seen in the luxury travel scene, dominated during summer by Arab and GCC tourists.

Throughout the summer months, the West End and high streets in other major UK cities host large groups of Arab tourists looking for a unique, exclusive shopping experience. Around a third of the UK’s overall tourism income is from luxury tourism, totalling around £30 billion. Arab tourists come to London, and other major cities like Manchester and Edinburgh (in a small percentage), purely for the shopping experience.

High end Arab tourism is not only valuable for the luxury shopping and accommodation fields, but also has a halo effect, helping the country with employment, preservation, investment, and even marketing. Thousands of people within the UK are employed in the tourism and retail industries supported by these visitors. Top attractions for these tourists include not only historic estates, but also historic shops and shopping areas; the money they spend in these locations is then reinvested into their own preservation. When tourists come to London and discover a love for the city, they are more likely to seek to invest in its businesses, and also recommend a trip to their loved ones. Arab consumers are far more likely to trust a word of mouth recommendation and proceed with a purchase, as opposed to responding to a marketing campaign. This promotes the country and city of London internationally, better than any marketing scheme could.

Luxury tourism is essential for the success of many businesses and organisations across the UK, but no area relies on it more than London. International tourism accounts for 50% of purchases made in the popular West End shopping area, with non-Europeans spending three times as much as European tourists. This is largely driven by high spending Arab tourists.

"Around a third of the UK's overall tourism income is from luxury tourism, totalling around £30 billion"

Why London?

Currently, London is a very popular destination among Arab tourists due to its established luxury shopping districts where they can access exclusive shopping experiences that they will not find anywhere else. In fact, many Mayfair shops are entirely focused on customers experiencing their products, rather than trying to sell them. This is especially appealing to Arab tourists, who highly value a pleasant experience while shopping, and will reward shops and brands that provide this with high value purchases.

While London is already very appealing to Arab visitors, the government is currently working on making it easier for these tourists to make it to London for shopping holidays; however, there is more to be done, and individual shops and brands must also work to become a priority destination for Arab tourists.

How can the UK do more to appeal to Arab tourists?

Tax-Free Shopping

While the UK government is making promising steps with their move toward visa free travel from the GCC and negotiating increased trade deals, the country took a massive step backwards with the end of tax-free shopping under Brexit. Prior to the end of tax-free shopping, it generated about £3.5 billion per year; however now that it has ended, international shoppers can no longer claim back their 20% VAT on purchases. This puts shops and brands in London at a severe disadvantage in comparison to European counterparts, where Arab shoppers can claim their VAT back.

This must be addressed on a governmental level in order to bring back tax-free shopping and eliminate this disadvantage. However, in the meantime individual shops must make themselves more appealing to overcome this, or introduce shipping policies, which can still have VAT claimed back.

"Prior to the end of tax-free shopping, it generated about £3.5 billion per year..."

Sunday Trading

In the UK, there are regulations in place over business hours on Sundays. Arab shoppers are often shocked by this, especially since Sunday is not a part of the weekend for most of the Arab world. Other major shopping cities such as Milan do not face this regulation, and in the Arab world, places like the Dubai Mall are open 24/7. The government could change regulations on Sunday trading to allow this with relative ease and without spending any money. Shops should then consider adjusting their hours to accommodate these shoppers, either extending their hours throughout the week, or choosing a different day to operate under reduced hours.

Cultural Awareness Training

Arab tourists highly value the experience and treatment they get when they are shopping in London. They want to feel comfortable and like when they are getting the most exclusive, luxury shopping experience possible. Not only do they want to go home with luxury products, but they also want to have stories to tell about doing the shopping itself. If they are happy with the experience they had, they will share this with their loved ones, and anyone they speak to in London. This is the best form of marketing for the Arabs. Word of mouth travels incredibly quickly and you could end up with many more customers, simply by making sure one tourist has a very good experience at your shop.

Unsure how to make sure you are providing the best possible experience for these tourists? We’re here to help.

By taking London Arabia’s Trust Me, I’m an Arab Cultural Awareness Training programme, you will be taught exactly how to tailor your in-store experience to achieve success with Arab shoppers. Our customised course will be focused entirely on your brand and store, to give you personalised advice on how to sell to Arab tourists in London.

For more information or to register for a free consultation, email or visit our website at


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