Feb 21, 2020
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Tourist spending in Europe hit two-year high in 2019 says Planet

Feb 21, 2020

Europe may be reeling from lower tourist numbers on the back of the coronavirus outbreak, but tourism remains a key source of shopping activity as a new report for 2019 shows.

Currency exchange effects translated into a tourist shopping bonanza in Europe during Q3

Tax-free payments specialist Planet’s latest Shopper Index showed tourist spending activity in Europe reached a two-year high last year.

The Index’s median score reached 103 in Q3, its highest since 2017, boosted by currency exchange effects. 

The company looks at the top 25 countries whose citizens visit Europe to shop and found that 24 out of the 25 component market currencies appreciated against the pound, and 19 did the same against the euro. 

The positive effect of all this for European shops — and especially the luxury fashion shops that are a tourist magnet — is that international shoppers have had more foreign currency to spend when abroad. Planet said European retailers have been the main beneficiaries of this.

So who were the big spenders? Well, as usual, it was the Chinese, and shoppers from the Middle East, Russia and US. But the year did see some changes.

China and linked territories remained in first place in Q3 but lost ground, with shoppers from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan seeing their index score falling “as a combination of ongoing trade uncertainty and domestic unrest coincided with a decrease in overseas spending by shoppers from these markets”.

Ongoing political unrest in Hong Kong appears to have had an impact on its residents’ typically robust propensity to travel and spend abroad. And of course, since the end of the period the Index covers, the coronavrius has further dented overall Chinese tourist spending.

But despite these headwinds, Chinese consumers remain committed foreign travellers and shoppers, with those from Hong Kong also retaining their appetite for international spending.

Visitors from the Middle East were standout shoppers in Q3. Planet said consumers from the traditionally big-spending Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) nations were prominent, with Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE each seeing their index score and rank jump significantly. In fact, the UAE rose two spots to number 6, Saudi Arabia three spots to number nine and Kuwait four spots to number 12.

After a challenging few years of currency depreciation and related lower spending on the part of affluent Russians, these consumers are showing signs of recovery as the country climbed to third place in the latest index from fourth last time.

And 2019 was a strong year for US shoppers as a buoyant economy at home gave them plenty of money to convert into euros or pounds and to splurge on foreign shopping trips. The US held on to its second spot in the Index and doesn’t look like it’s about to relinquish it any time soon. The dollar has strengthened significantly over the last 18 months and this led to “a sustained spate of outbound travel and increased spending by American shoppers”.

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