As the UK leaves the EU and withdrawal negotiations begin, travel leaders share their thoughts.
On Friday (31 January), the UK quit the world’s largest trading bloc and what is perhaps the most remarkable and ambitious political union there has ever been; one that, in its earliest guise, first restored, and has subsequently ensured, peace and prosperity in Europe for more than 70 years.
But the 2016 Brexit vote does not spell the end for our near 50-year relationship with the European Economic Community and subsequently the EU, nor does it mean the country cannot prosper outside the union.
At this historic moment in British history, TTG gauges the mood throughout the travel and tourism sector, its priorities for the next 11 months and how we find answers to the same burning question we had in June 2016: what next?
head of public affairs, Abta
“The implementation phase represents temporary relief for travel and tourism. There will be business and operational continuity until the end of the year, so customers can travel with confidence. Abta has issued renewed advice to make it as clear as possible customers’ travel arrangements won’t be affected until at least the end of December 2020. We have also updated guidance for members.”
“Now, as the UK government and EU enter trade agreement talks, Abta will focus on highlighting industry priorities. These include a comprehensive air service agreement to protect flights; replacing the mobility benefits of the Posted Workers Directive; and retaining reciprocal healthcare. Abta has remained engaged with the UK government and EU, and we are also recommissioning research into the value of UK travel to EU destinations.”
chief executive, Hotelplan
“As we start the new year, the uptick in business and consumer confidence is encouraging now some of the lingering uncertainty has lifted. As one of the largest UK tour operator employers of seasonal workers in the EU, I’m thankful a no-deal Brexit was averted. But the 11-month timescale for the transition period is extremely tight; it is vitally important the UK and EU travel and hospitality sectors find practical employment solutions for the skills needed after the transition period ends.”
“Businesses must work together to raise awareness and pressure relevant government departments over the coming months to find a way to recruit seasonal workers in the UK and EU.
“Abta and Sbit [Seasonal Businesses in Travel] are lobbying the government on the industry’s behalf to highlight the challenges. It will otherwise be an uphill battle, and I worry we’ll return to last year’s uncertainty by the summer.”
chief executive, Cosmos and Avalon Holidays
“So Brexit is now real; I just hope all the promises made are kept and the expectations of those who wanted us to leave the EU are achieved. I remain European and am committed to supporting our re-entry long-term. Equally, I hope the sunlit uplands promised [by Brexiteers] materialise and that our time outside the EU is prosperous for our country and people.”
“As far as travel is concerned, so much remains uncertain; one hopes common sense prevails with regards to freedom of movement, border checks and passport control so our businesses face minimal disruption and customers can still enjoy their travel experiences.
“It’s key now for the government to spell out very clearly for the industry what the situation is; people need to know exactly what they need to do and when they need to do things. There is no real clarity in a simple message, and this risks affecting holiday bookings.”
chief executive, Airlines UK
“While the certainty is welcome, we were always clear that even in a no-deal scenario, air services would continue. Attention will now turn to the future relationship between the UK and EU. We support the Department for Transport in its wish for aviation to have a standalone agreement. We want the starting point in the UK negotiating position to be the current freedoms of the air that have transformed UK-European connectivity, with full EU reciprocity. Only then can we ensure our industry continues to thrive and provide vital economic connections in the UK and EU.”
“The other crucial point is Easa [European Aviation Safety Agency] membership. We’ve been clear the industry supports continued UK participation in Easa, with the UK playing an active role. It is not unusual for
non-EU countries to participate in Easa and we would certainly welcome early clarity this remains the UK government’s position.”
spokesperson, Seasonal Businesses in Travel
“The outbound activity sector is particularly dependent on seamlessly moving UK staff to Europe to support seasonal operations. Any barriers to this will increase costs; the first signs have already started filtering through to prices – in a recent survey, Sbit members reported increases averaging £100pp, with further rises likely.”
“Many UK travel companies won’t be able to sustain these changes, while loyal customers may not be able to pay the prices required for these businesses to remain viable. The result will be a loss of good British businesses, choice for the consumer and valuable job opportunities for the young.
“The government must reach an agreement that maintains the ability, in as frictionless way as possible, for UK citizens to temporarily work in the EU. The sooner this is achieved, the sooner we can get back to preserving our industry’s economies of scale – and the more young people we can offer opportunities to, to build careers for life.”
former Abta chairman and Advantage chief executive
“A decisive election outcome in December and our departure from the EU on 31 January have removed uncertainty. Whatever your politics, removing uncertainty is mobilising consumers and corporates to spend.
“Government should have three priorities this year: to implement key election pledges and fulfil its promises; to conclude a trade deal maintaining the UK’s independence while sharing a mutually beneficial relationship with the EU that includes free travel rights; and to begin negotiating trade deals with countries like the US and Japan.”
“In the leisure travel sector, low inflation and interest rates, a stronger pound and record employment all bode well for bookings. All the indications are that January sales were buoyant. For all our companies, the priority is to differentiate our offering to customers, provide exceptional customer service and make ourselves available 24/7.”