Brexit: A view from France (and Devon)

Flashback to Friday 24 June.

It’s Brexit hangover morning. The Alternative Aquitaine team, bleary-eyed and despondent, assembles at its UK office on the Devon coast, mulling things over. What are our French partners, and friends going to think of us now… and how is our business going to be affected by this bombshell in the next year or two?

“Don’t you like us any more?” ask our French partners – with more than a hint of irony.

Thankfully, the Friday morning office routine is strong coffee and pains au chocolat –at least we all feel as though we’re doing our bit to enjoy a little French culture on this anti-European day.

We are unanimous in our desire to make swift contact with our owners and partners in France. An email is conceived expressing our sorrow at the result. We emphasise that our British clients are educated, metropolitan, enlightened and, above all, they are Francophiles. But, we write with a sense of embarrassment and guilt, we are worried at what they will think about receiving British guests this summer – and thereafter.

However, it’s not long before the responses come pouring in and how reassuring it is to hear what our French collaborators are thinking.

“For us we REMAIN your partners and friends,” say Antoine and Anne Claire from Saint Jean de Luz.

Pierre in Cap Ferret reminds us: “A toute chose malheur est bon” (there’s always a silver lining). “Nos relations d’affaires seront toujours empreintes de sincérité et d’amitié” (our business relationships will always imbued with sincerity and friendship).

In Biarritz, one of our longest-standing owners, Anne Cécile writes “Il a été une surprise pour ceux qui aiment la Grande Bretagne…mais nous continuerons à vous accueillir chaleureusement chez nous!” (A surprise for those who love Great Britain but we will always welcome your guests at our home).

Fast forward to October 2016. It is with great relief that we can honestly say that so far we've not seen any impact of Brexit on demand for holiday rentals in Aquitaine, with solid forward bookings for 2017. In fact, bookings are ahead of last season, in the face of the general feeling of uncertainty.

Despite sterling's fall, which will in theory increase rental prices by around 15 per cent in 2017, we continue to work closely with our owners and suppliers to ensure that our prices remain competitive. French owners really do love to host British guests and they will be flexible when it comes to negotiating sterling prices, and we have very strong relationships with owners who welcome our advice and guidance on pricing.

Brexit continues to make headlines – an ominous looming upheaval whose impact is hard to grasp as yet but it just reinforces for us how important the human relationships with clients and suppliers are for SMEs in today’s post-Brexit-vote world.  We are optimistic that France and the Aquitaine coast will remain popular amongst our clients and we are committed to our partners in Europe. 

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