France’s burqa ban is Britain’s gain

July 27th, 2011 - 10:13 am ICT by IANS  

London, July 27 (IANS) The burqa ban in France has led to resentment among wealthy shoppers from the Middle East who are now flocking to London for their shopping needs.

London store Liberty has notched up a 45 percent increase of international visitors, while Selfridges has seen a rise of 40 percent, the Daily Express reported.

Popular toy store Hamleys has also seen a “significant increase” in customers recently.

The number of shoppers from abroad is also expected to rise as a whole by 15 percent after French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the burqa was “not welcome” in France.

Anyone wearing it there now risks a 150 euro fine.

Jace Tyrell, of promoters the New West End Company, said Middle East shoppers from places such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia were “critical” to London’s retailers.

“It was clear from feedback in the travel trade that what had happened in Paris was having an effect. London is seen as welcoming, friendly and accommodating,” he said.

The second half of July - which marks the pre-Ramadan fasting period - is the most popular time for Middle Eastern shoppers coming to London, with sales expected to exceed 200 million pounds.

Neil Cook, of Qatar-based Gulf Times, said the Arab uprisings were also prompting a rise in foreign tourists to Britain.

“There is some kind of backlash against the burqa ban - people are more comfortable with London. Also, many people who would go to Beirut, Syria and other north African destinations are not choosing to travel there at the moment,” he said.

The number of foreign visitors is also expected to increase in the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics.

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