14 Dec

ABTA’s Luke Petherbridge gives evidence to House of Lords committee on impact on travel since UK left the EU

ABTA’s Director of Public Affairs, Luke Petherbridge, appeared at the House of Lords European Affairs Committee on Tuesday 13 December to give evidence to its inquiry into the future of the UK-EU relationship.

The session was examining mobility of workers and businesses since the UK left the European Union.

During the session, Luke raised the operational challenges that UK travel businesses are facing hiring staff to support UK tourists as a result of the lack of longer-term mobility arrangements within the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). He also highlighted problems for short-term entry of workers including the lack of mutual recognition of professional qualifications and national rules that prevent UK workers from fulfilling certain roles, for example, France requires those providing tour guiding services to be an EU national. 

When asked about the impact of Brexit on tourism to the EU Luke said that the experience of travelling is slightly less seamless, brought about through restrictions on how long you can be in the EU over a 180-day period, passport stamping and third-country lanes at airport and ports. There are also restrictions on what you can do for business travel. 

However, when challenged later on whether this is likely to see a move away from tourism to the EU, Luke made clear that there is no evidence of a widespread change in consumer behaviours at this stage, and even the introduction in 2023 of the EU’s e-visa scheme (Electronic Travel Information and Authorisation System) and biometric checks for entry, is not expected to deter travel, as UK travellers have experience with similar systems including the US ESTA scheme.

Instead, Luke made clear that it is travel businesses that are facing significant operational challenges, and that the industry is urging the Government to take action to make it easier to recruit vital support staff. He said that the Government should be taking some measures now, such as proactively negotiating the Youth Mobility Scheme (YMS) with crucial EU countries on a bilateral basis as a partial solution to the Brexit-related difficulties that travel businesses have in deploying operational and support staff.

In relation to the introduction of the EU Entry/Exit System (EES), an automated IT system for registering travellers from third countries, both short-stay visa holders and visa-exempt travellers, Luke noted this could significantly increase processing times at borders, which is causing some concern within the industry, particularly for port operators.

ABTA was called to give evidence following its written submission to the inquiry where it raised several points including:

  • The impact of the ending of freedom of movement for UK nationals, and inability of travel businesses to use the Posted Workers Directive (PWD) to hire UK-national staff to support tourists in Europe. Prior to the EU Referendum, an ABTA survey estimated that 20,000 UK workers were sent to Europe under the PWD every year, with around 5,000 staff also hired on local contracts.
  • ABTA’s call to extend the Youth Mobility Scheme to EU Member States and increase the age limit for the initial application to cover all workers under 34 years old, providing access to a broader pool of young workers. We would also urge the Government to consider extending the period covered for work to four years and to be proactive in offering and negotiating the Youth Mobility Scheme with other countries.
  • Impact of Brexit on school travel related to UK immigration laws and impacts on the use of collective passports and the Listed Travellers Scheme.
  • Barriers for UK staff working abroad – the role of the World Trade Organisation rules around trade in services, and individual reservations that EU Member States have, which might restrict UK nationals’ rights to perform specific roles. 
  • The need for an agreement on Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications to ensure that UK tourism qualifications are recognised to deliver tourism services in EU Member States.

Notes to editors
ABTA is a trade association for UK travel agents, tour operators and the wider travel industry. We’re the largest travel trade body, with over 3,900 travel brands in Membership who have a combined pre-pandemic annual UK turnover of £40 billion. We work closely with our Members to help raise and maintain standards and build a more sustainable travel industry, and provide travellers with advice, guidance and support.

Our Members sign up to a code of conduct and commit to agreed service standards and fair trading. When you need clear travel information, and accurate and impartial advice relating to your trip, we’re here for you. We’ll help you understand your level of financial protection, and what to do next, in the unlikely event that an ABTA Member goes out of business. So, whatever happens, when you book with an ABTA Member, reliable advice comes as standard. This means that booking with our Members brings peace of mind. Together with our Members, we help you travel with confidence. www.abta.com