Half of the UK’s tourism businesses will not be ready for Brexit by the end of the year.
In a survey of members of trade association UKinbound, 52% of respondents said they feared their business would not have made the necessary adjustments by the time the transition period ends on 31 December 2020.
More than two-fifths (44%) said they did not know how long preparations would take.
UKinbound’s Business Barometer, conducted among its tour operator, attraction and accommodation provider members, also revealed 60% of members felt negative perceptions about the UK will be the number one challenge for their business in 2020.
More than half (52%) cited the ability to recruit and retain staff as a major challenge.
The majority of UKinbound members reported a positive end to 2019, with 72% seeing a rise in visitor numbers or bookings in the last quarter of the year, compared to 2018.
Yields were also the same or higher for 83% of survey respondents.
Members who’d experienced growth gave the weak pound, mild weather, Brexit fatigue, growth in staycations and a perceived lowering of terrorism threat in the UK as possible factors.
The US had been the biggest growth market for many members, followed by China.
Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, said: “It is encouraging to hear that many of our members are experiencing strong forward bookings and that they’re confident about business in 2020.
“However, there are significant challenges now and ahead for our members due to the impact of the Coronavirus on the Chinese market, negative perceptions of the UK and the looming prospect of the end of Free Movement.
"Our members are already struggling to recruit employees with foreign language skills and are worried about the administration involved in recruiting non-UK employees post Brexit.
“We intend to work with the government over the coming months to ensure that their new immigration policy treats the tourism industry fairly and if needed, we will campaign for an extension to the transition period so that businesses have enough time to prepare and adapt.”
The survey was completed by 25% of the association’s 400-plus membership.