France’s burqa ban is Britain’s gain

London: The burqa ban in France has sent wealthy shoppers from the Middle East flocking to London.

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.

The number of shoppers is 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 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.

“London is seen as welcoming, friendly and accommodating,” he said.

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 who would go to Beirut, Syria and other north African destinations are not choosing to travel there at the moment,” he said. (IANS)

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