How has over a year of Brexit affected British tourism?

People across the world were gripped by the EU referendum. Experts predicted that the economic repercussions of an ‘Out’ vote would be catastrophic, and many onlookers cast doubt on the attraction of the country as a tourist spot even after decades of being high on the ‘must-visit’ list of most holidaymakers. The start of Brexit hasindeed sent shockwaves throughout the travel and tourism sector, but has it negatively or positively affected holidays to and from the UK?

With Lycetts — a provider of insurance for arcades, games and travel — we’ve looked at the idea that Brexit has helped, not hindered, travel and tourism in the UK.

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What do people think about taking a holiday since Brexit?

People who said that Brits would be too hard-up to jet off on holiday are apparently incorrect. According to a travel trends report by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), bookings for holidays abroad throughout the summer of 2017 rose by 11% compared to last year. And the trend only promises to get better, with 26% of all holidaymakers saying that they are ‘very likely’ to visit a country that they’ve never been to before and 29% stating to be ‘looking for a holiday to a new resort or city’ in a country they’ve already visited.

How has Brexit affected the ‘staycation’?

‘Staycation’ is a new term to describe taking a holiday somewhere in your own country, rather than abroad. Obviously, it’s better economically for people to put their money back into the UK pot than spend it elsewhere, so findings showing a rise in staycations are a fantastic positive for the country and tourism industry. ABTA found that holidays in the UK increased 71% in 2016 – up from 64% in the previous year. But is this because people have less money to spend on holidays since Brexit? It doesn’t seem to be the case. Barclays’ Destination UK report showed that more than a third of adults across Britain are choosing to holiday closer to home this year, because of personal preference, not cost. Here are some of the top reasons why people chose to have a UK holiday:

  • Desire to spend more time in the UK (34%).
  • Value for money (32%).
  • Enjoyment of a past UK holiday (23%).
  • Range of holiday activities in the UK (15%).
  • Little time for a holiday overseas (14%).

So, where in the UK are people heading to for their time off work? According to a survey:

  • 30% were planning on visiting south-west England.
  • 22% were going to Scotland.
  • 20% went for Wales.
  • 20% chose Yorkshire and Humberside.
  • 18% were packing for a London trip.

Other interesting findings from the Barclay’s Destination UK report are the UK average spends on their staycation:

  • £309 on accommodation.
  • £152 on food and drink.
  • £121 on shopping.
  • £72 on holiday parks (if part of the holiday).

Apparently, Brexit hasn’t had as great an effect on people’s wishes to enjoy a holiday as predicted.

How is the UK perceived by international holidaymakers?

Now on to international holidaymakers. The UK is an ancient country with a variety of modern cityscapesand a vibrant arts and culture scene. So, has Brexit crushedthe desire for international visitors to come here for a holiday? It doesn’t seem to have. Over 60% of around 7,000 worldwide travellers specified that they were now more interested in visiting the UK than they were last year, according to the Destination UK report. Although London sits at the top of the list for regions most international holidaymakers want to visit, there’s still a relatively even spread of people heading to areas across the UK.

The bonus of such a strong international tourism trend is the extra money pouring into the economy. The average spend of international tourists is huge, with accommodation coming to £667, shopping reaching £453, and dining sitting at £339. Foreign visitors have already spent a record £2.7 billion in January and February 2017, according to official figures collected from VisitBritain — a rise of 11% compared to 2016.

Patricia Yates, director of VisitBritain, said: “This year is off to a cracking start for inbound tourism. Britain is offering great value for overseas visitors and we can see the success of our promotions in international markets.”

UK tourist attractions: growth or decline?

It’s fantastic to see such a healthy average spend on accommodation, dining, and shopping. However, the UK’s top attractions would likely take a large brunt of any Brexit-induced downturn, so how are these doing? Looking at figures from a report by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA), numbers to UK attractions have risen by 7%, with 66,938,947 people visiting London attractions last year.

“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,” commented ALVA director, Bernard Donoghue.

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

Looking more into why people want to holiday in the UK; VisitBritain’s 2016 How The World Views Britain report looked at how the country ranks for different tourism attributes. It found that it still makes the top five for:

  • City life.
  • Historic landmarks
  • Contemporary culture.

Even since Brexit, it seems the UK still holds a lot of value as a holiday destination.

What’s in store for the UK travel and tourism industry?

All might be well for the UK travel and tourism industry now, but what about after we have officially divorced the EU? ABTA hopes so by asking the government to focus on five key points in the country’s Brexit negotiations:

  1. Holidaymakers’ rights — such as mobile roaming fees in Europe being abolished and ensuring UK travellers have access to free/minimal-cost medical treatment.
  2. Stability — such as keeping access to employment markets and continuing to look into tax and border issues.
  3. Growth — this might include reducing Air Passenger Duty, cutting visa costs and working towards world-class connectivity.
  4. Visa-free holidays — for fast and efficient processes through ports within the EU.
  5. Ability to travel freely within Europe and beyond— including ensuring that UK airlines can still fly and protecting rail, road and sea routes.

Sources:

https://www.barclayscorporate.com/content/dam/corppublic/corporate/Documents/Industry-expertise/destination-uk.pdf

https://abta.com/assets/uploads/general/ABTA_Travel_Trends_Report_2017.pdf

https://www.visitbritain.org/sites/default/files/vb-corporate/Documents-Library/documents/how_the_world_views_britain_2016_08.12.16.pdf

http://www.alva.org.uk/details.cfm?p=413&codeid=331636

http://www.alva.org.uk/details.cfm?p=607

http://www.alva.org.uk/details.cfm?p=606

http://www.alva.org.uk/details.cfm?p=453&codeid=789

http://www.alva.org.uk/details.cfm?p=453&codeid=785

https://www.visitbritain.org/forecast

https://www.abta.co.uk/assets/abta%20Brexit%20Report%202017.pdf

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