Chinese visitors have returned to numbers close to those before the pandemic — but they are not spending like they used to.
Heathrow has reported that Chinese visitor numbers were at 88 per cent of 2019 levels in July, but the airport said their spending at its shops was only 33 per cent of what it was four years ago.
Following Brexit, the UK ended tax-free sales in airports, ports and Eurostar stations in 2021.
But retailers and politicians are pressing the Government to re-introduce VAT-free shopping.
The retail director at Heathrow, Fraser Brown, said the UK’s “international competitiveness is on the line” as tourist spending in the UK continues to be depressed compared with the EU.
“The Government must remove this tourist tax to level the playing field for British businesses and deliver much needed economic growth across the country,” Brown added.
Nick Williams, head of retail operations at Gatwick Airport, said the local economy once benefited from tax-free shopping, as it attracted international visitors, support jobs and uplift retail sales at Gatwick airport.
“It is imperative tax-free shopping is reinstated now, as key, big-spending travel markets like China reopen, and before the UK falls irretrievably behind other European nations that have tax-free shopping in place,” Williams said.