London calling as Saudi tourists flock to the British capital
LONDON: Visitors from Saudi Arabia spent a record £794 million ($1.1 billion) in the UK in the first nine months of 2017 — more than twice the amount spent during the same period in 2016.
Most of that was spent in London, the city retaining its number one spot for Saudi Arabian travelers heading to Europe.
The sharp increase in spending is backed by an uplift in visitor numbers from KSA to the UK. Tourism body Visit Britain revealed to Arab News there were 138,000 visits by Saudi Arabians during the first nine months of 2017, up 14 percent compared to the same period in 2016.
Overall in 2016, visitors from Qatar spent the most per person in the UK, followed by those from Kuwait, according to travel association UKinbound. But visitors from KSA stole the crown in 2017, according to Visit Britain, with spending per person hitting new heights.
“Visitors from Saudi Arabia are hugely important to Britain as our highest spending and most loyal visitors and it’s great to see more and more tourists from the Kingdom making Britain their destination of choice,” Visit Britain Director Patricia Yates told Arab News.
The figures show the long-standing allure of retail hub London has not abated in the Brexit era — it has in fact has soared, partly due to a cheaper British pound. London was the most popular destination in Europe for all Gulf travelers in 2016 — and that trend looks set to continue, especially for Saudi Arabians.
“Looking at our travelers’ habits in KSA, previous survey results revealed that … when asked about their preferred holiday destinations … London remained top favorite, with the Almafi Coast in Italy and Miami as close alternatives,” Robert Williams, British Airways’ Head of Sales – Asia Pacific and the Middle East, told Arab News.
Although London may hold firm to its title of top destination, it is far from the only British city to attract KSA tourists. According Visit Britain, Manchester is the second most visited city in the UK by inbound Saudi Arabians (a podium spot the northern English city has held to for the last three years).
But Saudi Arabians in the UK have a distance to go to match the overall spend of Americans, with visitors from the US spending £3.35 billion in the UK in 2016, compared to Saudi Arabians spending £360 million over the same period, according to the latest full-year figures from Visit Britain.
Source: Saudi Arabia
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