International shopper spend in the UK fell 16% year-on-year in April as the volcanic ash cloud impacted tourism.

According to Global Blue, which operates tax-free shopping services, the six-day flight ban caused by the ash cloud dragged down an otherwise positive start to the year for tourism spend.

Between January and March 2010, tourism spend had seen year-on-year growth of 9%, with UAE spend up 8%, Russian spend up 22% and Chinese spend up 40% on last year.

Global Blue’s UK vice president Nigel Dasler said: “Unsurprisingly in April, international shopper spend took a nose dive with an estimated 100,000 UK flights abandoned. However, the pipeline of international shoppers in the UK is looking good, with our colleagues in China confirming that visitor levels are set to be back on track from this month and US incoming travellers to the UK back to previous levels from June.”

He added that Middle Eastern international shoppers are due to arrive in the UK this week for their summer break in the lead up to Ramadan and are expected to spend an average of over £1,000 per transaction.