Image credit: elenaburn /

UK hotels and shops saw income from Russians fall 17% in February as visitor numbers fell back amid political unrest in Ukraine.

The trouble in Ukraine exacerbated the effects of a weakening economy, leaving Russians disinclined to travel.

The findings come from tax-free shopping specialist Global Blue, which processes the vast majority of tax-free spending by overseas visitors.

Russians are among the top five biggest-spending tourists in the UK.

Global Blue, which processes 80% of all tax-free shopping in the UK, said they spend an average of almost £700 per transaction.

Non-EU nationals can shop “tax-free” by claiming back the VAT – worth 20% – on spending above £30 at shops and hotels, simply by filling in a form.

The fall in numbers saw Russians slip from the third-biggest spending nation in the country to fourth place, overtaken by Nigerian nationals.

Global Blue says this fall in numbers, if the political and economic uncertainty continues, could have a serious impact on luxury shops and hotels, which are preferred by Russian visitors.

Gordon Clark, UK country manager of Global Blue, told the BBC: “The unstable situation in Russia has shown its effect on tourism spend this year as the weakening economy leaves shoppers disinclined to travel.”

But he said the UK was still an attractive destination for Russian tourists because of the range of luxury brands on offer.

Until the fall-off in February spending had been rising sharply – with an annual increase of 16% in 2013.

It also pointed out that VisitBritain predicts growth in spending by Russian shoppers of 75% by 2020.