How Brexit has changed the UK’s travel and tourism scene

The UK has always been a top tourist destination. But when the EU referendum of 2016 gave the world an ‘Out’ vote, the travel and tourism sector was left panicking about how this would affect the country’s status as a holiday destination. More than this, would UK residents themselves be able to head abroad once, twice or even three times a year still?

We’ve teamed up with arcade, gaming and travel insurance provider, Lycetts, to found out exactly how Brexit has affected tourism for residents and visitors.

Popularity of holidays since Brexit

Are Brits still going on holiday? Many experts predicted a huge economic downturn that would affect unnecessary purchases, like holidays. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Early bookings for holidays abroad throughout the summer season of 2017 went up by 11{0aa6ff39f88f6874aa1314be06f6c24c81d3f2a8727f221ed543cd45c6c6423e} compared to last year, according to ABTA’s Travel Trends. What’s more, 26{0aa6ff39f88f6874aa1314be06f6c24c81d3f2a8727f221ed543cd45c6c6423e} of all holidaymakers have said that they are very likely to visit a country that they’ve never been to before, while 29{0aa6ff39f88f6874aa1314be06f6c24c81d3f2a8727f221ed543cd45c6c6423e} said they will look for a holiday to a new resort or city, even if they have been to the country in the past.

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The rise of the ‘staycation’

‘Staycation’ is a word to describe any holiday taken in someone’s home country, rather than abroad. And it appears that these have rocketed in popularity since Brexit. The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) carried out a Travel Trends report in 2017 and found that holidays in the UK actually rose a massive 71{0aa6ff39f88f6874aa1314be06f6c24c81d3f2a8727f221ed543cd45c6c6423e} in 2016 – up from 64{0aa6ff39f88f6874aa1314be06f6c24c81d3f2a8727f221ed543cd45c6c6423e} in the previous year. And there’s little indication that states this is due to an economic downturn or personal funding problems. Barclays’ Destination UK report showed that more than a third of adults across Britain are choosing to holiday closer to home this year, more so because of personal preference than cost. The following reasons were given for why people opted for staying at home:

  • “I would like to spend more time in the UK.” (34{0aa6ff39f88f6874aa1314be06f6c24c81d3f2a8727f221ed543cd45c6c6423e})
  • “Holidays in the UK are now more affordable.”’ (32{0aa6ff39f88f6874aa1314be06f6c24c81d3f2a8727f221ed543cd45c6c6423e})
  • “I enjoyed a recent UK holiday and am keen to have another here.” (23{0aa6ff39f88f6874aa1314be06f6c24c81d3f2a8727f221ed543cd45c6c6423e})
  • “There are more holiday activities in the UK than there were in the past.” (15{0aa6ff39f88f6874aa1314be06f6c24c81d3f2a8727f221ed543cd45c6c6423e})
  • “I have less time than before to holiday abroad.” (14{0aa6ff39f88f6874aa1314be06f6c24c81d3f2a8727f221ed543cd45c6c6423e})

It’s clear that holidaying in the UK can have a positive impact on the British economy, so hopefully staycations are here to stay. Especially when you consider the average spend findings from Barclay’s Destination UK report, which stands at:

  • £309 on accommodation.
  • £152 on dining out.
  • £121 on shopping.
  • £72 on holiday parks (if part of the holiday).

Positively for the country as a whole, there was a near-even share of planned holidays taking place across south-west England, Scotland, Wales, Yorkshire and Humberside, and London; which helps spread tourism money across the country.

How does the world view the UK as a holiday spot?

Staycations are fantastic, but the UK needs to be able to attract foreign holidaymakers to have a healthy travel and tourism industry. Out of more than 7,000 worldwide travellers, over 60{0aa6ff39f88f6874aa1314be06f6c24c81d3f2a8727f221ed543cd45c6c6423e} specified that they were now more interested in visiting places around the UK than they were 12 months ago, according to the previously-mentioned Destination UK report. On top of this, a massive 97{0aa6ff39f88f6874aa1314be06f6c24c81d3f2a8727f221ed543cd45c6c6423e} also said they wanted to see the UK in the next few months or very soon.

The most popular regions for international visitors to the UK are:

  • London (67{0aa6ff39f88f6874aa1314be06f6c24c81d3f2a8727f221ed543cd45c6c6423e})
  • Scotland (44{0aa6ff39f88f6874aa1314be06f6c24c81d3f2a8727f221ed543cd45c6c6423e})
  • Wales (29{0aa6ff39f88f6874aa1314be06f6c24c81d3f2a8727f221ed543cd45c6c6423e})
  • Northern Ireland (24{0aa6ff39f88f6874aa1314be06f6c24c81d3f2a8727f221ed543cd45c6c6423e})
  • Yorkshire and Humberside (17{0aa6ff39f88f6874aa1314be06f6c24c81d3f2a8727f221ed543cd45c6c6423e})

Another reason why the UK is thankfully not being negatively affected by Brexit is the average spend of international visitors, which is considerably higher than holidaymakers from the UK. The Barclays report found that the average spend on accommodation by international holidaymakers was £667 — more than double what UK holidaymakers typically pay. Factor in £453 on shopping and £339 on food and drink, and you have a healthy contribution to the economy that hasn’t been weakened by Brexit.

VisitBritain, the tourist board of the UK, also discovered that foreign visitors have already spent a record £2.7 billion in January and February 2017 alone! This is a rise of 11{0aa6ff39f88f6874aa1314be06f6c24c81d3f2a8727f221ed543cd45c6c6423e} compared to 2016’s figures, year on year.

Tourist industry in the UK since the referendum

What makes the UK great as a tourist destination is the wealth of landmarks and attraction it offers — many of which feared a massive decrease in visitor numbers as a result of Brexit. Thankfully, figures from a report by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) show that visitor numbers to UK attractions have risen by 7{0aa6ff39f88f6874aa1314be06f6c24c81d3f2a8727f221ed543cd45c6c6423e}.

ALVA director, Bernard Donoghue, commented:“Many of our members in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Cornwall had record years in 2016, although the first nine months of the year were hard for some of our members, particularly in London. However, by the end of the year, nearly all attractions were reporting growth from overseas and domestic visitors.”

Incredibly, 66,938,947 people visited London attractions last year — more than the entire UK population! Here are the top tourist venues and how many people visited in 2016:

Attraction Part of the UK Total visits in 2016
British Museum London 6,420,395
National Gallery London 6,262,839
Tate Modern London 5,839,197
Natural History Museum (South Kensington) London 4,624,113
Southbank Centre London 3,909,376
Somerset House London 3,443,220
Science Museum London 3,245,750
Victoria and Albert Museum (South Kensington) London 3,022,086
Tower of London London 2,741,126
Royal Museums Greenwich London 2,451,023
National Portrait Gallery London 1,949,330
Chester Zoo Chester 1,898,059
Kew Gardens London 1,828,956
Westminster Abbey London 1,819,945
National Museum of Scotland Edinburgh 1,810,948
Edinburgh Castle Edinburgh 1,778,548
Royal Albert Hall London 1,660,123
Scottish National Gallery Edinburgh 1,544,069
St Paul’s Cathedral London 1,519,018
British Library London 1,500,986
Old Royal Naval College London 1,477,117
Stonehenge Wiltshire 1,381,855
Royal Academy London 1,285,595
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum Glasgow 1,259,318
Riverside Museum Glasgow 1,259,042
Roman Baths & Pump Room Somerset 1,216,938
ZSL London Zoo London 1,211,279
RHS: Garden Wisley Woking 1,110,050
Tate Britain London 1,081,542
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre & Swan Theatre Stratford-upon-Avon 1,069,129
Imperial War Museum London 1,011,172
Eden Project Cornwall 1,000,363

The UK’s travel industry in the future

Considering what recent reports have shown us, the UK’s travel and tourism industry seems to have been unharmed, and even prosperous, since the vote in 2016. But how will the UK fare once we officially leave the EU? ABTA advises that the government needs to focus on five key points in the country’s Brexit negotiations:

  1. Ensuring Brits can travel freely in Europe and worldwide— including ensuring that UK airlines can still fly and protecting rail, road and sea routes.
  2. Chance for growth — this might include reducing Air Passenger Duty, cutting visa costs and working towards world-class connectivity.
  3. Protecting consumer rights — such as mobile roaming fees in Europe being abolished and ensuring UK travellers have continued access to either free or minimal-cost medical treatment.
  4. Keeping visa-free travel between the UK and the EU — for fast and efficient processes through ports.
  5. Providing operational stability for UK businesses— such as keeping access to employment markets and continuing to look into tax and border issues.

Granted that we see these necessities being ensured, it seems that the future is bright for UK travel and tourism.