Has Brexit harmed the UK’s travel and tourism industry?

The UK has long been a top travel and tourism destination for international holidaymakers across the globe. But the decision to leave the EU in June 2016 cast serious doubt on the survival of the UK economy and its professional sectors, with travel and tourism an industry in danger of major ramifications.

Would people still want to visit the UK considering the uncertainty around visas, passport control, airport procedures, and currency value? Supplier of arcade, gaming and travel insurance, Lycetts, researched the issue to found out how Brexit has affected tourism for UK residents and international visitors.

Have attitudes to holidaying abroad changed in the UK?

Many thought that the threat of an economic downturn due to Brexit would reduce the possibility of people booking holidays in the UK, which was bad news for travel companies.However, research shows that this doesn’t seem to have happened. In fact, early bookings for holidays abroad throughout the summer season of 2017 went up by 11% compared to last year, according to the 2017 Travel Trends report conducted by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). What’s more, 29% of people surveyed said they will look for a holiday to a new resort or city, while 26% said that they are very likely to visit a new country entirely. So, Brexit doesn’t seem to have done much to dampen the holiday spirit.

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Homeward holidays

But, where are UK residents holidaying now? And has Brexit caused a shift in the destinations we choose for our breaks? It seems so. ABTA’s Travel Trends report goes on to find that there were 71% more holidays taken in the UK in 2016 – up from 64% in 2015. But could this in fact be a negative and due to a wave of panic-saving as a result of the economic doom spread by pro-EU spokespeople? There’s little to say that the rise of the ‘staycation’ (a term to describe people staying in their home country for a holiday) is because ofmoney worries. Barclays’ Destination UK report showed that more than a third of adults across Britain are choosing to holiday closer to home this year because of personal preference than cost.

Here are results from a survey that asked why adults are staying here for holidays:

  • “I like to spend more time in the UK.” (34%)
  • “Holidays in the UK are more affordable today.”’ (32%)
  • “I enjoyed a recent UK holiday and am keen to have another.” (23%)
  • “There are more holiday activities in the UK than there were in the past.” (15%)
  • “I don’t have the time to take a holiday abroad.” (14%)

Staycations keep cash in the UK, which is great for the economy. Barclay’s Destination UK report shows that people who holiday in the UK spend on average:

  • £309 on accommodation.
  • £152 on dining out.
  • £121 on shopping.
  • £72 on holiday parks (if part of the holiday).

But are Brits holidaying all over the UK, or is the money going to a single region? When asked as part of a survey, 30% of respondents said they were planning on visiting south-west England, 22% were heading to Scotland, 20% had chosen Wales, 20% opted for Yorkshire and Humberside, and 18% were packing for a London trip. This shows that, thankfully, holidaying at home is benefiting multiple areas across the country.

Global attitudes to holidays in the UK

The greatest fear for people in the UK’s travel and tourism industry was that the country’s attraction as a holiday destination would diminish because of Brexit. However, this fear appears to be unfounded. Out of more than 7,000 worldwide travellers, over 60% claimed to be even more interested in visiting places around the UK now than they were 12 months ago, according to the previously-mentioned Destination UK report. On top of this, a massive 97% also said they wanted to see the UK in the next few months or very soon, with the most popular regions for international visitors to the UK in descending order being London, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Yorkshire and Humberside.

It’s fantastic for the UK to see such positive attitudes to visiting the nation, even after the tumult caused by Brexit. This Barclays report also found that the average spend on accommodation by international holidaymakers was £667 — more than double what UK holidaymakers typically pay. Factor in £453 on shopping and £339 on food and drink, and you have a healthy contribution to the economy that hasn’t been weakened by Brexit. Official figures collected by VisitBritain have discovered that foreign visitors have already spent a record £2.7 billion in January and February 2017 alone! This is a rise of 11% compared to 2016’s figures, year on year.

Patricia Yates, director of VisitBritain, said: “2017 is off to a cracking start for inbound tourism. Britain is offering great value for overseas visitors and we can see the success of our promotions in international markets. We must continue to build on our message of welcome and value in our high-spending markets such as China, Europe and the US.”

What are the UK’s biggest attractions and how have these coped with Brexit?

The UK is home to countless landmarks and attractions that have helped to boost tourism for decades. But have these been harmed by Brexit?Looking at figures from a report by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA), visitor numbers to UK attractions have actually risen by 7%.66,938,947 people visited London attractions last year — more than the entire UK population — and many others brought in high numbers, too.

Attraction Part of the UK Total visits in 2016
British Museum London 6,420,395
National Gallery London 6,262,839
Tate Modern London 5,839,197
Natural History Museum (South Kensington) London 4,624,113
Southbank Centre London 3,909,376
Somerset House London 3,443,220
Science Museum London 3,245,750
Victoria and Albert Museum (South Kensington) London 3,022,086
Tower of London London 2,741,126
Royal Museums Greenwich London 2,451,023
National Portrait Gallery London 1,949,330
Chester Zoo Chester 1,898,059
Kew Gardens London 1,828,956
Westminster Abbey London 1,819,945
National Museum of Scotland Edinburgh 1,810,948
Edinburgh Castle Edinburgh 1,778,548
Royal Albert Hall London 1,660,123
Scottish National Gallery Edinburgh 1,544,069
St Paul’s Cathedral London 1,519,018
British Library London 1,500,986
Old Royal Naval College London 1,477,117
Stonehenge Wiltshire 1,381,855
Royal Academy London 1,285,595
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum Glasgow 1,259,318
Riverside Museum Glasgow 1,259,042
Roman Baths & Pump Room Somerset 1,216,938
ZSL London Zoo London 1,211,279
RHS: Garden Wisley Woking 1,110,050
Tate Britain London 1,081,542
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre & Swan Theatre Stratford-upon-Avon 1,069,129
Imperial War Museum London 1,011,172
Eden Project Cornwall 1,000,363

The future of a post-EU UK

Evidently, the UK’s tourism industry is coping well following Brexit. But what about after we officially leave the EU? ABTA advises that the government needs to focus on five key points in the country’s Brexit negotiations:

  1. Maintaining our ability to travel freely within Europe and beyond— including ensuring that UK airlines can still fly and protecting rail, road and sea routes.
  2. Grabbing opportunities for growth — this might include reducing Air Passenger Duty, cutting visa costs and working towards world-class connectivity.
  3. Protecting consumer rights — such as mobile roaming fees in Europe being abolished and ensuring UK travellers have continued access to either free or minimal-cost medical treatment.
  4. Giving UK businesses operational stability — such as keeping access to employment markets and continuing to look into tax and border issues.
  5. Keeping visa-free travel between the UK and the EU — for fast and efficient processes through ports.


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