Ukip leader Nigel Farage has told TTG he believes domestic tourism would be “fantastic” if the UK exited the European Union – even if it was at the expense of outbound holidays.
Farage, who is a passionate advocate of the UK leaving the eurozone, acknowledged that the pound could fall in the wake of a “leave” vote, but insisted that the travel industry should be thinking instead about the benefits of domestic tourism.
“Sterling may fall a bit but it’s falling already,” he told TTG. “So holidays might become a little more expensive – tourism in the UK would be fantastic – it works both ways.”
His comments came as Caroline Bremner, head of travel at Euromonitor, warned that a Brexit could have far more damaging consequences for the UK travel industry – both inbound and outbound – with a potential 15% decline in inbound visitor numbers.
“A devalued currency makes the UK more attractive to potential visitors. However, the UK’s travel and tourism industry has a negative balance of trade, where outbound travel far outweighs inbound, so the positive impact would be limited,” she said.
Euromonitor also highlighted that with 34 million inbound visitors forecast to arrive in Britain in 2016 – 64% of whom are expected to come from Europe – “clearly, imposing restrictions on travel and introducing visas and additional border controls would have a major impact on inbound tourism.”
15% decline in volume
“Coupled with the impact of recession and the uncertainty of at least two to seven years while the UK renegotiates its borders, trade relations, tariffs and duties with the rest of Europe, this could lead to a worst-case scenario of over 15% decline in volume,” it added.
The warning came as TTG quizzed Farage about other downsides a Brexit could have on the travel industry. This includes concerns that the UK could continue to adopt EU regulations – such as the Package Travel Directive – but be excluded from any discussions and consultations.
Consultant Andy Cooper, who was a former director of government and external affairs at Thomas Cook, said the UK could look to emulate Norway’s model in this way.
“Other countries that are out of the EU still have Brussels regulations because they normally choose to adopt them,” he said. “We could end up still being bound by EU legislation, but with no input as to what goes into it. It would be the worst of both worlds.”
Farage however dismissed the suggestion as “scaremongering”.
“Norway is an example of an outright lie by the establishment,” he insisted. “They adhered to just 9% of EU laws between 2000 and 2015 so that just doesn’t ring true.”
It comes amid mounting pressure from both the “in” and “out” camps, as divisions widen in the mainstream political parties. Last week the pound fell to a seven-year low following the announcement of a referendum on June 23, although sterling began to recover this week – albeit modestly.