Atlas Obscura: Mapping travel in a post-Brexit world

Today I’m going to play Brexit roulette…



This is not the kind of game politicians are playing with the future of our country, but rather a random review of the press releases I’ve received lately on the subject of travel, post referendum. A quick sift through these releases, led by no particular agenda reveals either predictions of the dawning of a new era or statistics that spell out End Of Days.

The travel industry is used to End Of Days. From earthquakes to tsunamis, bombs to bloody civil unrest, airlines, holiday companies and tour operators often have to rethink business swift and sharp. Certainly, in a post 9:11 world the industry has learnt to expect, and sort of prepare for some seriously nasty wild cards. But in most cases the troubles have been localised, either geographically or confined to one sector of the industry: security, air travel, currency and so on.

Brexit has blown right through this, with the potential power to monkey about with every area of the travel industry both at home and for UK travellers and business abroad. And so, to Brexit roulette: a random reach in this journalist’s email inbox reveals that we are still wading very much into the unknown, often led by utterly conflicting facts and stats being spewed out by different sources. Just as it was back in June, the words “shock” and “uncertainty” are the buzzwords that loom large.

John Pilger’s words still ring true: “During the referendum campaign, almost no insightful analysis was allowed to intrude upon the clichéd hysteria about "leaving Europe", as if Britain was about to be towed in hostile currents somewhere north of Iceland.”

He is right, and of course we haven’t been but key sectors of the travel industry have started towing their business offshore. This industry is a prophetic Brexit beast in many ways, utterly wedded as it is to doing business with and in Europe. According to Deloitte and travel association, ABTA 76% of UK holidays abroad are in EU countries and 63% of inbound visitors are from EU countries. This is not to mention the countless travel companies who share investment, services, staff and infrastructure with the continent and its peoples. 

Since June, the industry has suffered severe blows and seen some interesting gains but the picture is still anything but clear. If the travel industry is something of the canary in the coalmine it’s yet to choke out the death knell. What we are hearing is more the garbled, confused twittering of a bird that’s not sure why it’s down the shaft in the first place. From booming incoming tourism numbers to the slashed spending power of Europe-bound tourists, handcuffed by rubbish exchange rates, confusion reigns.

To try and start making sense of the noise, over coming weeks in Write You’s travel pages we will hear the predictions and perspectives of people across the industry on the impact of Brexit on the future of travel. We start off with two views from the luxury and youth areas of the travel market.

Have you got an opinion? Then let us know; we’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, here are just some of the headlines, stats and “facts” that are producing a murky, conflicting and in some surprising ways, a comforting picture of travel in the age of Brexit…

“City breaks are now the bestselling holiday type for UK tourists and the Eastern European cities rated best value in successive Post Office barometer reports are all performing ahead of expectations.  The two top examples are the Polish zloty and Hungarian forint.  This suggests a good autumn season ahead with the annual Christmas markets to fuel demand." (Source: Post Office Fastest Growing Currencies report)

“Falling Pound forces Brits on a budget to head further afield this summer. Weak Sterling means that wining and dining on holiday in Spain and France now costs twice as much as in exotic locations such as Mexico and Vietnam.” (No.1 Currency

“London remains a top tourist destination and open to the world following the EU referendum vote, according to new research, with two thirds of US visitors pledging to return to the capital.” (Analysis carried out by London & Partners, the Mayor of London’s promotional company)

“It’s looking possible that red tape for travellers could get more tangled, with UK passport holders needing to apply online to visit Europe. It could increase the cost as well as complexity of holidays and business trips. (Simon Calder, Travel Editor, The Independent)

“No discernable impact”

Analysis of its post-Brexit customer behaviour from over-50s travel specialist, Saga who has also reported “robust” trading for 2016/17. (Source: Saga)

 “For us, a single European sky and similar legislation around maritime and rail around Europe is the number one priority. The negotiations around how we feed into that are critical because we’ll have to start negotiating bilateral agreements to move aircrafts across Europe and indeed to the US.” (Alistair Pritchard, Deloitte)

The crucial 70 per cent: The percentage of hospitality businesses in London that rely on free movement across Europe. (Source: Deloitte) 

Also the percentage of UKInbound business that by comes by air. (Source: UKInbound).

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