London retailers enjoyed a boom in credit card spend fuelled by Chinese shoppers during the first weekend of Chinese New Year, according to WorldPay.
The payments company, estimated to process nearly half of all card payments in the UK, said card payments by Chinese visitors on Saturday 1 February and Sunday 2 February grew by 47.4% compared to the first weekend of the festival last year.
The Chinese New Year, sometimes known as the Spring Festival, is a popular time for Chinese tourists to visit the UK, often in search of designer brands that are more expensive at home.
WorldPay said it handled over £18.9m ($30.9m) in payments from Chinese tourists during 2013, representing a growth of 10% year on year.
The boom may have been fuelled by partnerships between WorldPay and Chinese payment schemes China UnionPay and Alipay.
The Chinese card giant UnionPay, which claims to be the fastest growing card scheme in the world, has 3.9bn cards in circulation, meaning that on average each of China’s 1.35bn residents has 2.9 UnionPay cards.
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Chinese citizens are restricted to a $5000 cash limit when travelling abroad, but can spend up to the card limit if their destination country has China UnionPay facilities.
Meanwhile the number of visitors from the Gulf grew by 10% on the previous year, generating £1bn in card payments.
The UK government’s recent relaxation of visa restrictions on Chinese citizens visiting the UK is also expected to fuel a rise in spending this year.