Tourist spending is expected to hit a record high this year, but figures to be published today show the weak pound has already given the UK economy a significant boost.
So-called "Brexit tourists" took advantage of the pound's slump by spending more than £725m on British high streets in December, the data shows.
Payment processor Worldpay analysed transaction data to find spending on foreign cards was up by 22 per cent year-on-year in December, which was worth an extra £130m to high street retailers compared with 2015.
The shops that got the biggest boost were high-end boutiques and department stores in London's West End, where foreign tourists spent an extra 35 per cent compared to the previous year.
Duty free shops in London's Heathrow airport also experienced gains from travelling visitors.
James Frost, UK chief marketing officer of Worldpay, said: “Bricks and mortar retailers have not had things all their own way this Christmas, with the latest reports suggesting UK consumers are increasingly doing the bulk of their shopping online. So the influx of free-spending tourists we saw in December will have been a welcome boost for retailers looking to balance the books.”
This trend in high tourist spending has been ongoing since the pound depreciated against other currencies after the UK voted to leave the European Union.
Visitors from Hong Kong spent the most of any group of tourists – an extra 69 per cent – compared with the previous year. Traditional big spenders from the United Arab Emirates shelled out an extra 31 per cent and spending on Chinese cards was up by 24 per cent.
In December, VisitBritain announced it was working to increase the UK's number of Chinese tourists. China is the most valuable outbound market, with visitors staying longer and spending more, and Britain hopes to reel in £1bn in Chinese tourist spending by 2020.