Chinese tourists overtook the French as the second highest spenders in the UK last month, behind only American visitors, according to Visa.

Spending by Chinese visitors using Visa rose 44.5% year-on-year in July to £50m across the retail and leisure sectors.

It came as the UK government last month introduced a long-awaited move to simplify the visa process for visitors from China.

In supermarkets, spending by Chinese visitors was up 79% last month, while shopping at high street retailers increased 40%, Visa said. Around £20m was spent on clothing using Visa, which makes up 40% of overall holiday spend by Chinese visitors in the UK. Spending on dining out was up 66% in July.

Visa Europe’s UK & Ireland managing director Kevin Jenkins said spending by Chinese tourists is likely to become an important growth driver for the retail sector, helped by the change in visa rules.

But he added:  “Going forward it will be interesting to see whether our data indicates a short-term boost or a genuine shift in Chinese tourism to the UK.”

Jenkins said retailers may look to capitalise on the shift by using more pre-travel marketing, multi-lingual staff and new product lines in store.

However the pace of growth in UK spending by Chinese tourists came in below Spain (75%), Switzerland (66%), Italy (63%), France (61%) and Germany (57%).