A Bombardier Challenger 605 plane at the Dubai Airshow at Al Maktoum International Airport. Private jet travel from the Arabian Gulf to London grew in the first four months of the year. Pawan Singh/The National
A Bombardier Challenger 605 plane at the Dubai Airshow at Al Maktoum International Airport. Private jet travel from the Arabian Gulf to London grew in the first four months of the year. Pawan Singh/Th

Region’s luxury jet-set find London most appealing

London was the most popular destination for Arabian Gulf private jet users in the first four months of 2016, with a total of 222 trips, followed by Paris with 185 trips, according to Dubai's Private Jet Charter (PJC), one of the world's largest independent private jet charter brokers.
"The aviation industry in the Middle East is still not fully tapped. Increasingly, a large segment of businessmen and individuals are recognising the benefits of renting a private jet, exploding the myth that this service is exclusively available for high-profile personalities," said Hugh Courtenay, the founder and chief executive of PJC, which this week celebrated its 15th year in operation.
Gulf visitors to London seem tranquil despite the economic jitters back home, and are spending up to twice as much in some luxury shopping areas compared to a year ago, new data shows.
Cash tills are ringing in the so-called London Luxury Quarter – which covers the areas of Mayfair, Piccadilly and St James's – which saw a rise in big-ticket purchases by Gulf visitors in the year to January, according to Al Arabiya.
Global Blue, which operates one of the world's biggest tax-free shopping networks, tracks transactions and bulk information like the home countries and receipt amounts of purchasers whom have requested tax refunds.
Its data shows that visitors from the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar are among the top-five biggest tax-free spenders in the London
Luxury Quarter, even in the wake of the oil-price slump. Shoppers from the UAE spent an average of £1,783 (Dh9,472) per transaction in January – a 94 per cent year-on-year increase.
Figures for the UK as a whole show that tax-free spending by shoppers from Qatar rose by 35 per cent in the year to February, with an average spend per transaction of £1,346. Visitors from the UAE and Kuwait also shopped more – although those from Saudi Arabia spent 28 per cent less compared with last year.
Private Jet Charter manages a global network that has access to an inventory of approximately 5,000 aircraft. The company, which has a sizable market share in Europe and the Middle East, supplies aircraft such as the Boeing Business Jet, Bombardier Global Express, Falcon 7X, Bombardier Challenger 605 among others, said Hugh Courtenay, the founder and chief executive, PJC.
PJC said it can offer customised concepts to clients. For example, the company leverages on the "empty Leg" flights, which can occur when a private jet is booked for only one leg or direction.
"The weak pound has allowed for an increased spending power of shoppers in London," said Kim Urbaniak, the marketing manager at Global Blue UK.
"Gulf tourists have been key spenders within hospitality and shopping for many years in London," Ms Urbaniak added. "[Middle Eastern shoppers] have gained further prestige as … Russian spenders continue to decline, and have now fallen out of the top 10."
Knightsbridge – the home to the luxury department store Harrods – and the boutiques of nearby Sloane Street are key shopping areas for Middle Eastern visitors, Ms Urbaniak said.
"On Sloane Street more than 31 per cent of the total tax-free spend comes from Middle East countries," she said. Visitors to the street from the UAE are spending about 40 per cent more than a year ago, while those from Saudi Arabia spend the most overall.
While London is popular among Gulf travellers, retail spending is up across Europe as a whole, Global Blue data shows. Middle East visitors spent 17 per cent more on tax-free shopping trips to the continent in the year to January, Urbaniak said.
"Middle East outbound traveller numbers are increasing, driven by the desire to travel and shop abroad," Ms Urbaniak added.
And it seems an increasing number are choosing to go shopping in private jets.
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