Friday, 18 March 2016

Stick with the EU, say Britain’s travel agents

THE ‘Stay’ side in the UK’s referendum on European Union membership has been backed by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), which has published a report on what it says are the potential impacts on country’s travel industry of withdrawal from the EU.

With economic analysis from Deloitte, ‘What #Brexit might mean for UK #Travel‘ assesses how the existing relationship between the UK and the EU has affected British travellers and the travel industry, and looks at what the likely impact would be of a ‘Leave’ vote on consumer confidence, expectation and behaviour, as well as on the industry.

More than 29 million foreign holidays each year – 76% of the total – are made by UK holidaymakers to EU countries. Sixty-eight percent (4.6 million) of all business trips from Britain are to EU states.

There are currently, says ABTA, many EU regulations designed to benefit holidaymakers and business travellers. Although these regulations would not change immediately, a UK exit could have a “significant impact” in the future. Current regulations include: 

  • Financial protection for package holidays 
  • Compensation for flight delays 
  • Access to free health cover through the European Health Insurance Card
  • Caps on mobile phone charges 
  • ‘Open skies’ across the EU, resulting in more routes, more airlines, and lower fares 

Of immediate concern is the impact that a period of prolonged uncertainty will have on the strength of sterling versus other currencies. A weaker pound has a direct impact on spending power overseas, making the cost of holidaying or visiting abroad more expensive, as well as adding costs for UK businesses to buy abroad.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA CEO, says: ‘Our assessment of the report’s findings is that a vote to leave will lead to uncertainties and may lead to increased costs for travel businesses and the travelling public. We recognize that people will approach this referendum by considering many factors – personal, professional, and economic – before casting their vote. ABTA has considered what a vote to leave the EU might mean purely from a travel perspective. Our view is that the potential risks and downsides are not matched by an equal upside for the traveller.’

Go Holiday editor David Kernek comments: That’s ABTA’s view, and it’s hardly surprising. The key words in ABTA’s plea for the status quo are could and might and potential. Neither they nor the Get Out folks can be sure of what will follow a UK vote to leave the club that, to quote London’s mayor, nobody in their right mind - except, perhaps the Turkish government – would want to join now. The one thing that is reasonably certain, however, is that our European neighbours – from Belgium and France across to Italy and Greece – will want to do nothing that would prevent British holidaymakers contributing to the growth of their tourist industries.

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