While the Brexit debate rages on, much of the attention has been focussed on banks and their highly-valued EU passports. It is, however, worth remembering that Brexit could impact on other industries, particularly tourism, which has varying degrees of importance across the EU. In a post-Brexit world, there are a number of factors which could influence its economic health.
Pound v Euro exchange rates
If the pound continues to fall then it will become cheaper for people from other EU countries to come to the UK for leisure travel. While the UK’s weather may not be enticing, it has plenty of other attractions and a soft pound could be just what the UK’s tourist industry needs to encourage more visitors. On the other hand, if the pound strengthens, then it may be more of a challenge to attract EU tourists to the UK, but it could be easier for UK tourists to head overseas. If, however, exchange rates settle to a consistent level, then different factors are likely to come in to play.
Ease of Travel
All visitors to the UK are currently required to go through border control but at this time visitors from the EU only require national identity cards, rather than passports. In theory this could change, but it is an open question as to whether or not this would actually happen. Travellers from the UK already expect to have their passports checked at least once when they arrive on the EU mainland. If the EU continues as an open-borders zone, participating in the Schengen agreement, then it is a reasonable assumption that UK tourists would be allowed to pass freely between member states. If the Schengen agreement is abolished, then it is likely that border controls would return, but this in itself would not necessarily mean that UK tourists would need a visa, just that they would need to be prepared for passport controls as is already the case when travelling outside the EU.
Cost of Travel
There are various factors involved in the cost of travel. One is oil prices, which are highly unlikely to be impacted by Brexit. Another is local taxation, which may or may not be impacted by Brexit. A third is, quite simply, supply and demand. At this point in time, there are numerous EU nationals living and working or studying in the UK as well as UK nationals doing likewise in the EU. This generates a certain amount of demand for travel as people visit friends and family who are now resident in a different country to them. If this situation changes and the demand for travel drops then, counter intuitively, this may well result in higher travel prices. The reason for this is that some airlines, particularly the budget ones, may begin to drop routes or even abandon their business completely, which would leave their remaining competitors in a stronger position to raise fares and improve their own margins.
Cost of Insurance
At the moment, those who hold an European Health Insurance Card
(EHIC) card can access local health services on a like-for-like basis with residents of the relevant country. Depending on how Brexit happens, this right may be withdrawn, which would mean that travellers would have to take out insurance to cover any medical issues. While this is also the case outside the EU, the actual price charged by insurers might be a factor in any travel decision.
The “feel-good factor”
While many of the issues surrounding Brexit have been couched in economic terms, it’s probably fair to say that for many people, emotional issues are also an important consideration. In simple terms, holidaymakers want to know that they’ll be welcome in any country they choose to visit. Safety is another key point. If the UK manages to project an international image of hospitality and security, then there is a very good chance that visitors will still choose to come here even if other destinations are cheaper and/or more convenient.