When ABTA originally commissioned this report, very few of us could have predicted COVID-19 would disrupt our way of life so dramatically, or the devastating impact that the virus would have on international travel. What the pandemic has also served to do, however, is to impress upon us all the vital importance of travel to our economies, as well as the societal and cultural benefits of travel that go far beyond the economic remit of this report.
As we seek to recover from the crisis, we know that we have the potential to build back better, and stronger, than ever before. We know the underlying appetite and desire for travel remains strong, and European countries, which account for around three quarters of all outbound travel from the UK, will continue to be favoured destinations for many UK residents. Through the longstanding relationships the UK travel sector has with European destinations, ABTA is confident we can achieve our joint aim of restoring travel flows, and ensuring the travel sector contributes to thriving destinations as well.
In this report, which is extended to include the European Free Trade Area, we have looked at every area touched by travel and tourism, from macro-economic impacts on national economies and employment levels, through to the number of businesses which are supported across the continent. The research quantifies how UK outbound tourism has positively impacted lives, stimulated economic growth, provided jobs and supported businesses throughout Europe.
We also publish this report at a time when the UK and EU are set to embark on a new relationship. The message of this report, and ABTA’s message to policymakers in Westminster, Brussels and the national capitals across Europe, has remained clear and consistent: we must strive to preserve the benefits of travel, both economic and also cultural – for the latter are harder to quantify, but equally valuable.
While the benefits of travel might seem evident, recent events have also shown us they should not be taken for granted. We must continue to be proactive, and collaborative, in our approach to create the conditions that allow the industry to flourish and enable all our citizens to continue to travel with confidence.
Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive