06 Nov

ABTA urges Brexit negotiators to prioritise deal on travel

As the EU Withdrawal Bill returns to the House of Commons next week for further debate, ABTA -The Travel Association is urging all parties to move forward and prioritise a deal on travel as a matter of urgency. 

ABTA is meeting senior officials in Brussels, including at the Commission, and EU ambassadors in the coming weeks, with the aim of highlighting the very significant value of UK outbound travel both to EU economies and in the UK. Using the findings from its new report published today, ‘Travelling Together: The value of UK outbound tourism’, ABTA will be highlighting the importance of securing a deal that enables holidaymakers and business travellers to travel confidently in the future, as they do today.    

The new report, ‘Travelling Together: The value of UK outbound tourism’ is an economic analysis of UK outbound travel in the EU. It quantifies how UK travel to the EU has positively impacted lives by stimulating economic growth, providing jobs and supporting businesses. It also highlights the importance of safeguarding transport links, including air routes, for both parties. In particular, the report explores the direct and indirect economic effects using three important indicators:

  • Gross Value Added (GVA): the contributions to the GDP of EU countries that are attributable to UK travellers. In total, UK travellers are worth in excess of €37 billion in total aggregate GVA to the economies of the EU27
  • Employment: the number of jobs across the EU that are dependent on UK travellers. Outbound tourism from the UK directly sustains over 380,000 jobs across the EU, supporting a further 486,000 jobs indirectly through supply chains.
  • Businesses: the number of businesses sustained by UK tourism. UK travellers support over 440,000 businesses across the EU.

The EU is an extremely important market for UK outbound travel. More than 53 million trips were taken to EU countries in 2016 for holidays, business trips or to visit friends and relatives, an increase of more than 10% on 2015.[i]  This equates to around 75% of all trips taken abroad by UK residents, while the number of visits from the EU to the UK in 2016 was almost 26 million.[ii] Economies throughout Europe benefit significantly from the close links we share, and the direct and indirect spending, job creation and wider-reaching contributions that travel generates.

Economic impact of UK outbound travel in the EU

In total, UK travellers are worth in excess of €37 billion in total aggregate GVA to the economies of the EU27. The areas on which they spend the most are those sectors of the economy most associated with travel and holidays, such as hotels, bars and restaurants but they also contribute to the entire travel sector supply chain.  For example, when a tourist buys new clothes while on holiday, this will directly benefit the local shopkeeper but also supports those people working in the textile industry and their distributors.

Supporting jobs and businesses

The travel sector is a major employer across the EU, directly employing over 380,000 people and supporting more than 486,000 additional jobs in associated industries. The sector supports a wide variety of jobs, from bartenders and waiters to roles in the supply chain and wider economy such as catering suppliers and taxi drivers.  On average, every £1 million spent by UK travellers supports 62 jobs in the travel sector and wider economy in the EU27. 

Across the EU, a huge range of businesses benefit significantly from the spending of UK tourists. In total, more than 440,000 businesses are directly linked to UK travellers.

Economic impact of UK outbound travel in the UK

UK outbound travel is also hugely valuable to the UK itself. The average UK traveller spends £324 on their holidays before they’ve left the UK[iii], and outbound travellers are worth more than £28.3 billion a year in aggregate GVA.[iv]

The UK travel industry benefits the whole of the UK, providing direct employment for 214,000 people and supporting a further 169,000 indirectly.

The UK summer holiday and the “Sunshine Seven”

The UK summer holiday is a national institution, with millions of UK holidaymakers looking to get away every July and August to destinations offering guaranteed summer sunshine.

Seven of the most popular summer sun destinations in the EU – dubbed the Sunshine Seven in ABTA’s report - are Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Malta. In 2016, more than 34 million UK travellers visited these destinations. Combined spending by UK travellers across the Sunshine Seven generated an aggregate GVA impact of €28 billion. Across the Sunshine Seven, almost 540,000 jobs are linked to UK tourists, directly or indirectly.

The no 1 destination by far for UK travellers is Spain. In 2016, Spain received 14.7 million visits by UK travellers[v], aggregate GVA impact was over €13 billion and more than one in 20 Spanish businesses were connected to UK tourism.

However, it is Malta which has the largest share of businesses linked to UK tourism – 16% of the country’s companies are connected to UK travel.

Business Travel

Business travel is an important aspect of travel to and from the UK, with outbound business trips accounting for nearly 10% of all visits to the EU from the UK. Unlike leisure travel, the UK receives more inbound business travel visits from the EU (7 million) than outbound UK business trips to EU countries (5 million). France and Germany are the countries we visit most when travelling on business. The ability to travel freely between the UK and the EU for business travellers has been an important factor in facilitating trade, sustaining jobs and delivering growth.

Commenting on the Brexit negotiations, Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive, said: “As Brexit negotiations continue, our message to policymakers at home and abroad is clear: the true economic value of UK outbound travel to both the EU and the UK must not be underestimated and it is vital that we are able to continue travelling confidently post-Brexit. ABTA is urging both sides of the negotiations to reach a solution that secures these crucial rights, as quickly as possible. The EU is the UK’s largest travel destination, and UK outbound travel supports a huge number of jobs and small businesses across both the UK and EU.  It is in the interests of all our citizens to find a long-term solution that works for everyone and enables us all to continue to travel with confidence.”

The full report, ‘Travelling Together: The Economic Value of UK Outbound Travel’ can be downloaded at www.abta.com/brexit.


[i] Office for National Statistics (ONS), Travel Trends 2016

[ii] Office for National Statistics (ONS), Travel Trends 2016

[iii] ABTA/Arkenford Travel Consumer Survey 2017

[iv] ABTA/CEBR Driving Growth 2015

[v] ONS Travel Trends 2016