Brexit and Tourism
TheBrexit debate in the UK clearly stirred a great deal of passion on both sides and even more scare mongering on both sides. Generally speaking, the tourism industry leadership in Britain supported the remain camp but now the British voters have made their decision (albeit by a narrow margin 52%-48%) to sever their ties with the European Union it’s time to have a sober look at the implications of that decision on tourism. In some respects nothing changes.
The UK has traditionally been lukewarm over its commitment to the EU and for those who understand British thinking, the Brexit vote is no surprise. In the heart of many older and more conservative British, the distrustful attitudes of Basil Fawlty towards continental Europeans are never far beneath the surface. Britain was never part of the EU Schengen scheme in which travelling within the EU was virtually free of border formalities. All travellers to the UK are subject to border and customs formalities at the port or border post of entry. The UK was not a part of the Eurozone which means that its currency, the Pound, is separate from those EU countries which have adopted the Euro. Immediately following the result of the Brexit vote the exchange rate of the pound against other key currencies took a dive but it remains to be seen is this is an overreaction from a nervous market. Even in some key tourism product the UK was never part of the Eurail scheme and has for decades operated its own Britrail program.
For non-Europeans, Britain’s decision to exit the EU will have little if any real impact. If, as some economists suggest, the exchange rate of the pound declines, the UK could actually become a less expensive destination for many international travellers. The uncertainly over Brexit could even see British tourism companies promoting deals for travellers to reassure them that all is well in Britain. It is certain that Visit Britain will become more active in the promotion of the UK to source markets outside Europe. The potential impacts on UK-EU tourism raise many questions which are yet to be fully answered. The UK tourism industry is concerned about how Brexit will apply to the status of EU citizens working in Britain’s tourism industry.
Many of Britain’s hotels, attractions and restaurants have developed a significant reliance of staff from EU countries who have been legally entitled to work in the UK. The British tourism industry has legitimate concerns about the future visa status of such staff. There is equal uncertainty over the future visa status for Europeans visiting Britain and equally for British tourists visiting EU countries. The position of millions of Britons who work in EU countries, have established businesses and purchased property in EU countries will also be a matter of uncertainty. Conversely the same questions may also apply to EU Citizens who work and run businesses in the UK. Tourism took something of a back seat during the Brexit debates in Britain. However, it is clear that tourism issues will be figure prominently in terms of the implications of the decision made by the British electorate. There is a real concern among British tourism professionals that Brexit may create a perception among some Europeans that they may be unwelcome in Britain and that this perception may also result in the British being unwelcome in Europe.
Clearly there will be a lot of work ahead to answer the questions raised by the Brexit decision.