Among the many questions that arise surrounding the UK’s exit from the EU is how Brexit could impact Europe’s Tourist industry.
The departure of the UK from the EU and the possible changes to free movement this could bring may lead to a temporary or permanent fall in tourist numbers. It is also likely to bring with it a plethora of new procedures and regulations for tour operators.
This article studies the possible outcomes and consequences that Brexit could have for tourism in both the UK and the EU. It considers how tourist numbers may be affected by the change in citizenship status for British travellers and how the tourism industry might react in a few different scenarios.
Brexit’s effects on European tourism
With the continued uncertainty over the UK’s departure from the European Union, the European tourism industry is having to prepare for multiple different outcomes. Currently 55.9 million tourists a year visit the EU from the UK but this could change should Brexit happen.
In the event of a full break from Europe, it is possible that the way that UK citizens travel in Schengen and around the EU could change dramatically in numerous ways.
Even in the case of a negotiated exit from the European Union, there are likely to be some related effects that could eventually impact the flow of tourists into countries such as Spain, France, and Italy from Britain.
New travel procedures for British travellers
If a deal is agreed in the following months between Britain and the EU, it is possible that British travellers will experience no changes in the normal requirements to enter the EU Schengen area. They will only require a passport to visit as they do currently.
However, one of the likely outcomes of a failure to strike a trade agreement between the British government and the EU is that UK citizens may soon need an ETIAS visa waiver to travel to a European destination. This is set to be launched in the next few years and will permit UK travellers to spend 90 days in the EU within a 180-day period. It will be obtainable online and valid for 3 years.
Changes in travel insurance requirements
It is possible that European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) will no longer be valid to use by British citizens post-Brexit. These are held by around 27 million Brits and can be used to cover medical costs whilst travelling in Schengen and the EU.
In the event of a withdrawal agreement being approved by both sides, however, there will be a transition period until 2020. This will allow British travellers to keep using their EHICs until at least December 31st, 2020.
In the case of a No Deal Brexit, this arrangement will cease immediately. This will require UK citizens to purchase travel insurance covering medical necessities prior to travel to an EU destination.
Loss of income in European tourist destinations
A potential fall in tourist numbers in the EU from the UK could be an immediate outcome of Brexit whatever form it takes. The uncertainty around the travel documents necessary for a trip to Europe, as well as fluctuations in the value of the Pound Sterling, may simply lead to tourists staying away.
The effects of Brexit on UK tourism
At present, the manner in which the UK will leave the EU is not clear. The UK government has formalised a Withdrawal Agreement with the EU but it has yet to be ratified by parliament.
Despite Brexit being delayed until February 1st, 2020 and a transition period being in place until 2022, the way that the final withdrawal from the EU will happen is not certain. In all cases, this could have severe effects on the UK tourism industry.
Hiring staff within the tourism industry
One of the biggest fears of the UK travel industry is that harsher, more restrictive immigration rules will be implemented. This is likely to have a big effect on the many thousands of seasonal and permanent staff that are hired from EU countries to work in the UK’s tourism sector.
An increase in bureaucracy, as well as a rise in the costs of hiring overseas staff, is likely to create difficulties for British tourist businesses. It could lead to understaffing and a drop in the ability of companies to perform their services adequately.
Falling numbers of foreign tourists in the UK
The UK tourism industry is likely to experience a fall in tourist numbers immediately after a no-deal Brexit. At present, 68% of the UK’s tourist visitors come from EU countries and this is expected to remain stable in the event of a negotiated exit from the European bloc.
However, whilst the UK government has indicated Freedom of Movement will end immediately when the transition period ends, it has now clarified that tourists from the EU will be able to continue to travel for short visits with just passports.
Nevertheless, it has also indicated there will be tougher security checks and the use of EEA ID cards at eGates and border checkpoints will be phased out during 2020. The government has yet to formally clarify if visas or visa waivers will be necessary for short touristic visits or not in these circumstances.
Loss of funding within the tourist industry
The tourism industry within the UK is likely to take a further hit to its finances due to a loss of EU funding. Britain currently receives substantial amounts of EU money and this is expected to end once Brexit has been finalised.
At present, the cultural and tourism industry within Britain receives about €57 million of funding from EU initiatives in addition to money provided for local infrastructure from the EU Regional Development Fund.
If the UK were to break away from the EU entirely, this money would no longer be paid, and the British government may then have to make up the shortfall.
Whatever the final decision on Brexit from the UK, European travel rules are gradually shifting and the necessities for traveling to the EU are evolving.
Whether Brexit happens or not, an ETIAS will be a necessity for third country travellers visiting the EU Schengen area from the end of 2022. Visitors from the US, Canada, and Australia will need to apply online for ETIAS prior to travel in order to enter a Schengen country. Visitors are advised ETIAS is not and will not be a visa, but actually a visa waiver, which is completely different.