01 of 06
Update: On June 23rd, the people of the UK voted to leave the European Union, in a 51.9% to 48.1% win. Here's how travel to the country might change in the aftermath.
On June 23rd, the British public will decide whether or not the country will remain part of the European Union. The impending referendum, which was promised by the current Conservative government as part of its campaign for the 2015 general election, has split the UK into two distinct camps — those for Brexit, as the departure from the EU is colloquially known, and those against it.
Those in favor of Brexit claim that independence from the EU will help with immigration issues and free the country from the complicated rules that bind all EU members. Those against it argue that leaving the EU could harm the British economy and lead to increased unemployment. In reality, the exact ramifications of Brexit are hard to predict, as they depend entirely on the terms negotiated post-referendum.
If Brexit passes, UK travel will... likely be affected. For Brits wanting to travel to Europe, Brexit could cause prices to skyrocket. In a recent statement, Prime Minister David Cameron warned that the cost of the average family holiday to the Mediterranean could increase by as much as £230 ($335). In this article, we take a look at what Brexit might mean for those wishing to travel to the UK from overseas.
02 of 06
1. Reduced Flow Of Tourists To The UK
Citizens of all EU countries are entitled to free movement between member nations, meaning that at the moment, visitors from countries like France and Spain can enter the UK without a visa. According to a recent report published by ABTA and Deloitte, 63 percent of inbound visitors to the UK come from EU countries, with 8.8 million EU nationals travelling to the UK in 2014 alone.
If Britain votes in favor of Brexit, however, EU residents hoping to visit the UK will likely face new visa laws and stronger border controls — presumably leading to a dip in UK tourism. For those travelling to the UK from outside the EU, existing visa laws should stay the same. But fewer tourists could mean greater hotel and attraction availability, smaller crowds, and shorter queues.
03 of 06
2. Altered Sterling Exchange Rate
The pro-Brexit contingent argue that leaving the EU will benefit the British economy in the long run, by relieving the UK of expensive EU membership fees and opening up possibilities for trade with other countries. Most experts, however, agree that the economic uncertainty Brexit would bring will negatively affect the value of the pound at least temporarily.
In February, the pound reached a seven-year low against the dollar after Mayor of London Boris Johnson announced his support for Brexit. If the UK decides to leave the EU, it seems likely that exchange rates will fall even further. This means cheaper accommodation, cheaper internal travel - and more money to spend on dining out and exploring the country’s attractions.
04 of 06
3. Pricier UK—Europe Flights
There’s bad news for those wishing to combine their trip to Britain with a tour across Europe. At the moment, all European airlines benefit from a single aviation area, which allows them the freedom to fly to any member country without restriction. This has allowed budget airlines like EasyJet and Ryanair to flourish, reducing inter-Europe fares by approximately 40 percent since 2006.
It is unclear whether or not British airlines would continue to benefit from the single aviation area if the country decides to leave the EU. If their current privileges are revoked, EasyJet Chief Executive Carolyn McCall warns that UK residents and overseas visitors can expect a steep rise in European airfares exacerbated by a reduced number of available routes.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
4. Staffing Problems For The UK Travel Industry
According to ABTA and Deloitte’s Brexit report, EU citizens currently make up 5.9 percent of the UK workforce. Many are employed by the tourism industry, and could become subject to UK immigration law if the Brexit negotiations do not include continued free movement of persons. In this case, the employment of EU citizens will become both difficult and expensive.
Consequently, tourism-related businesses may struggle to fill key positions, especially while UK citizens are enjoying high employment levels. A 2015 survey by People 1st shows that in several areas of the tourism industry (including hotels and restaurants), nearly half of all vacancies are classified as hard-to-fill. This could lead to a decline in the quality of service experienced by overseas visitors.
06 of 06
5. Changes To Tourist Safety
Both sides of the Brexit debate have argued that national security could be affected by the outcome of the June 23rd referendum. In February, Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told the BBC that Britain’s current partnership with the EU is a necessary safeguard against the threat of terrorism and Russian aggression, particularly when it comes to sharing information.
Pro-Brexit groups, however, claim that leaving the EU will make Britain safer by allowing for greater control over its own borders. At the moment, the high volume of refugees entering the EU from volatile areas including the Middle East and North Africa make it difficult to monitor immigration. It’s possible that whatever the outcome, there could be ramifications for tourist safety.