Watches and jewellery spending rises by 29% for Middle Eastern shoppers

Wealthy tourists from the Middle East are a key target market for the Harrods Re-Edition fine watch promotion. (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

You can get a 4-star hotel in Dubai this summer for about £30, such is the oversupply of tourism property in the Gulf city state in 2019. 

Qatar is still under a cloud thanks to a dispute with neighbouring Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and UAE. And the region is riddled with instability ranging from tensions with Iran, war in Yemen and the rumbling civil war in Syria.


All the more reason to escape on holiday, Gulf residents appear to conclude, and to spend their super strong dollar-pegged currencies in countries like the UK where the pound is in the toilet.

Ramadan falling in May, well ahead of the exodus from the scorching weather of summer gave the Arab world two additional reasons to head for temperate climes.

European retailers have enjoyed a surge in GCC tax-free shopping from GCC citizens, according to Global Blue, which provides advice and services for tax-free shopping.

A number of countries offer VAT/GST refunds to international… More activity earlier than the year before.

Spending was up by 16% across Europe over the April-June period, peaking in June with a 57% spike over the same month in 2018.

The UK remains by far the favourite destination for Gulf shoppers, accounting for half of the European total for the second quarter. France accounted for only 9% in comparison, Global Blue says.

Growth was fastest for big ticket items like jewellery (+27%) and watches (+29%) across Europe.

Luxury watch retailers would do well to note that citizens from individual GCC countries do not behave the same way. Global Blue found that visitors from Qatar and Kuwait spend more in the UK during Ramadan while UAE and Saudi Arabian citizens spent more in Europe during the Holy Month.

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