Will Brexit mean less tourists travelling from the UK?

This was a major topic of discussion at WTM London 2019 this week.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s newly agreed Brexit deal was looking worse than the deal agreed by his predecessor Theresa May in terms of its effect on the UK economy, said David Goodger, managing director of Tourism Economics.

“May’s deal would have taken 2% off GDP, while the current deal would take off 3.1%. If we are not as well off as we could be, of course this will have a clear impact on travel. He warned a no-deal Brexit would lead to a much worse recession. “Aviation disruption is likely to be minimal with agreements in place, but there are risks of major disruption in 2021.”

Brits are taking domestic trips in addition to their overseas holidays, and Brexit is not deterring them from booking, the panel agreed.

“We are not going to see a massive evacuation of Brits from Torremolinos to Skegness. Those who are wedded to overseas sunshine holidays won’t stop going,” said Tom Jenkins, Chief Executive of ETOA, the European tourism association.

John Sullivan, Head of Commercial at the Advantage Travel Partnership, said: “The exchange rate might have some impact but it will not stop [people] from going overseas. We are also seeing the rise of the all-inclusive product overseas as [people] know the final price.”

They both agreed that careful planning on behalf of hotels, tour operators, businesses and anyone involved in the travel industry was the best way to make sure that the industry remains as unaffected as possible by the political climate.

High street happy

More British consumers are visiting independent agencies on the UK high street to book package holidays, speakers said.

“It is really interesting – lots of big consumer brands have gone but what we have seen is a renaissance and return back to the independent travel agent,” said Sullivan.

“Look at the high streets that are doing well – there are lots of independent retailers because people would rather buy from local independents than big chains, whether it’s coffee or travel, as they want good service.”

He said the repatriation of holidaymakers after the collapse of Thomas Cook in September showed the system worked. “No one was stranded, everybody got home, and most enjoyed their holiday.”

“It underpins the fact that the package is very much alive, although the consumer media would not have you believe that.”

He continued: “Lots of people, whether travelling overseas or in the UK, want something unique, not in the brochure, because they want something bespoke. Our agents can offer that knowledge and specialist service.

“Internet fatigue sets in when you search online, as there is so much content and it is so confusing, and there is the fear factor of ‘who are they, are they safe?’.

“Often people will start online and then our member agents can help them narrow it down. That’s why younger people are coming to travel agents more and more, and to tour operators. Even if it costs a bit more, it’s worth it as it saves them time.”

Jenkins added: “We are at the beginning of a golden period for package holidays".