Research and Report

Over time AIR will commission research to support the growth of the international retail sector.

AIR will also be launching a quarterly insights product to inform supporters and policy makers of the current state of the sector.

Key Research and Report

Tax-Free Shopping

AIR's 2023 November Report  to Treasury


Ending tax-free shopping results in £1.5bn lost in UK retail sales...

You can read the report here.

Oxford Economic Tax-Free ShoppingAssessment

The reintroduction of TFS would attract more than 1.6 million extra visitors to the UK and stimulate an extra £2.8 billion of tourist spending…

You can read the report here.

Research Library

    AIR's evidence submitted to the Treasury on the impact of ending tax-free shopping

    You can read this document here.

    AIR's report for activities at Labour party conference and assessment of Labour position in tax-free shopping

    You can read this document here.

    AIR's response to HMRC consultation on the future of tax free shopping. 
    May 2020

    You can read this document here.

    Post-COVID-19 reopening guide for London's West End. May 2020.

    You can read this document here.

    AIR has created a detailed plan for 'COVID-19 support for businesses reliant or partly on international visitors'.

    You can read this document here.

    The international visitor sector is vital for UK jobs and growth.

    Visitor numbers grew by 32% to 40.9 million between 2009 and 2019.

    Spending grew by 61% to
    £28.43 billion.

    The sector employs 450,000 people.

    (Date source: Office for National Statistics)

    25% of all expenditure by overseas visitors is on the UK’s high streets and in the country’s impressive range of department stores.”

    (Date source: VisitBritain)

    VisitBritain has compiled an extensive research document into the importance of shopping on inbound tourism. Although some years out of date, this comprehensive report is extremely informative for the sector at large.

    You can read this research here.

    VisitBritain commissioned detailed research by Kantar on high net worth travellers from China, USA and the Gulf. Their research aims to better understand those customers who account for the highest spends during trips to the UK.

    You can read this research here.

    United Nations World Tourism Organisation publish regular updates on global tourism. In 2020 they forecast a growth of 3% to 4% in international tourist arrivals worldwide in 2020. Their website is full of helpful resources for the international retail industry.

    You can read their publications here.

    Chinese tourists spend while overseas





    (Date source: COTRI)

    Walpole’s Economic Contribution to the UK, a 2019 report, offers excellent insight into the luxury retail industry. Walpole is the trade body for the British luxury retail sector.

    You can read this report here.

    London and Partners’ report on tourism to London from 2017 predicts a sharp rise in tourism to the capital by 2025. They predict tourism numbers will go from 19m in 2016 to over 40m in 2025.

    You can read this report here.

    The UK China Visa Alliance’s report looks at how the UK government can take practical steps to make it easier for Chinese people to get a UK and Schengen area visa. This would boost tourism and investment in the UK.

    You can read their report here

    Percentage of population who own a passport

    Image showing passports with 40% USA, 9% China and 76% UK

    (Date source: Bain & Company)

    Bain & Company’s Luxury Study published in 2018 took a detailed look into the recent developments of the luxury goods industry globally. It highlights the growth of the Chinese tourism market, the younger consumer and changes to retail outlets globally.

    You can read this report here.

    Vistors to the UK


    Oct 18 - 19: (£24,520bn spend)


    Oct 17 - 18: (£22,770bn spend)


    Oct 16 - 17: (£24,460bn spend)


    Oct 15 - 16: (£21,840bn spend)


    Oct 14 - 15: (£21,730bn spend)

    (Date source: Office for National Statistics)

    Marketing Manchester works to promote Greater Manchester as a place to visit, invest, do business, and study. Their Review 2019 document is full of helpful insights alongside key facts and figures that demonstrate the importance of international tourism to the Greater Manchester economy.

    You can read this report here.

    The Tourism Alliance’s 2019 UK tourism statistics report is very helpful for anyone with an interest in the sector. Its full of easy-to-read facts and figures that demonstrate the importance of this sector to the UK economy.

    You can read this report here.

    The House of Commons Library have produced their research summary of the UK inbound and outbound tourism industry. They have pulled together lots of important research from a wide variety of sources.

    You can read this report here.

    Most popular shopping destinations for super rich tourists

    Map showing France in 1st place with 36% and the UK in 2nd place with 31%

    (Date source: Bain & Company)

    2019 top spenders on tax-free shopping (non-EU visitors)

    AIR's 2020 'Post-coronavirus retail recovery plan' is a detailed response to the current outbreak, and highlights 5 points to encourage Chinese visitors back to the UK once the virus has been beaten.

    You can read this report here.

    Oliver Wyman consultants have released a fascinating report on the changing preferences of Chinese tourists.

    You can read this report here.

    Global Blue commissioned research into the economic impact of tax free shopping in the UK, suggesting that for every £1 the Government refunds it gains up to £1.90 in additional tax and savings.

    You can read this report here.

    International retail makes a major contribution to the UK economy.

    £6 billion spent on shopping by international visitors (2019).

    UK’s 12th largest export sector.
    120,000 direct retail employees.

    (Date source: Association of International Retail)

    Media coverage of AIR's tax free shopping campaign

    Ending VAT-free shopping 'will hit UK tourism and retail'

    Source: BBC News

    Chancellor warned scrapping tax-free shopping risks 70,000 jobs

    Source: The Guardian

    Rishi Sunak faces backlash from retail giants including Selfridges, Harrods and Marks & Spencer over plans to axe tax-free shopping that ‘will drive foreign shoppers to Paris’

    Source: The Mail on Sunday

    Scrapping VAT relief for international visitors will have ‘untold impact’ on Greater Manchester economy, industry leaders warn

    Source: Business Live

    News on AIR's COVID-19 support

    The Chancellor has announced an extension to the furlough scheme until October and more flexibility and some employer contribution from August

    Click here to read

    In response to this, Paul Barnes, CEO of The Association of International Retail said: “Covid-19 is financially impacting many sectors, but none more so – and none will suffer for as long – as those dependent on international visitors.  We are pleased that our campaign for greater flexibility around part-time furloughing has been successful so far, but we’re concerned that the Government’s support may stop abruptly in October, before overseas visitors return in meaningful numbers.  Cutting the cord too soon will not just be catastrophic for retailers, theatres, hotels and their associated businesses – its cumulative effect will risk London and the UK’s position as a leading global destination.  We await further detail later this month and will continue to campaign for the support needed by the international retail sector, otherwise we risk seeing some of our historic businesses shutting up shop for good.”

    AIR Briefing: Continuing business support for companies with significant sales to international visitors

    Nickie Aiken MP's letter to UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP

    Tory MP calls on government to extend job retention scheme

    Source: City A.M

    Click here to read

    Pre-lockdown COVID-19 response

    Now updated and incorporated in the AIR, New West End Company and Walpole International Retail Campaign

    Click here to read

    Tourist organisation links

    Visit Britain logo

    The official tourism website for Great Britain.


    The Tourism Alliance works to promote all businesses involved in the delivery of tourism, particularly in England.

    UK Hospitality Logo

    The leading hospitality trade association in the UK.


    London’s international trade, investment and promotion agency.

    Visit London Logo

    The official visitors’ website to London.

    Visit Manchester Logo

    The official tourist board for Manchester and Greater Manchester.

    This is Edinburgh logo

    The official tourist board for Edinburgh.


     The trade association representing inboard tourism.

    Marketing Manchester Logo

    Marketing Manchester is the agency charged with promoting Greater Manchester on the national and international stage.

    UNWTO Logo

    The UN agency promoting ethical, sustainable and accessible tourism.

    Retail organisation links

    Bira Logo

    The trade association for independent retailers.

    BRC Logo

    The trade association for all UK retailers.

    CBI Logo

    The membership body representing 190,000 British businesses.

    Revo Logo

    Revo supports the people and businesses involved in the diverse world of retail property.

    Walpole Logo

    The official sector body for over 250 of the UK's finest luxury brands.

    New West End Company logo
    A partnership of 600 UK & International businesses in the world’s top shopping and leisure destinations, anchored by Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street.