Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive, will be talking about Brexit at the Business Travel Show on Wednesday 22 February
Last June saw one of the most significant votes in the political and economic history of the United Kingdom. The referendum on our continuing membership of the European Union and the resultant vote to leave it, sent shock waves throughout the country, the European Union and the wider world. We will be working through the consequences of this vote for years to come and it has profound implications for all of us as private individuals and for all industrial sectors.
ABTA has worked with its Members to define the priorities of the UK travel and tourism industry as the Government prepares to negotiate the UK’s exit from the EU. In doing so, these principles have guided our thinking; avoiding barriers to travel, enabling businesses operational stability and continuity, protecting the consumer confidence that is vital to the success of our industry, and exploring opportunities for growth. As the Government embarks on this unprecedented reshaping of the UK’s relations with the EU and the world, we have highlighted the value of UK travel and tourism to the UK economy and our vision of how we can secure a prosperous future for the industry and the travelling public.
We have identified five immediate priorities. The continued access to liberalised transport markets; visa-free travel between the UK and EU countries for leisure and businesses trips and avoiding the creation of other barriers to travel; maintaining sufficient access to the UK and EU employment markets; securing key consumer rights such as the UK’s continued participation in the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme; providing the right regulatory regime for travel as the UK leaves the EU as well as seizing opportunities for growth.
We will be launching a report to set out these priorities, urging the government to recognise the value of travel and tourism to the UK economy, and to prioritise the maintenance of barrier-free travel between the UK and our largest overseas market. Looking at business links alone, UK travellers make over 6.6 million trips a year to EU countries for the purpose of short-stay business trips, whilst EU business travellers make over 9 million such journeys to the UK.
Travel and tourism businesses support the employment of over 3 million people across the UK, and the industry has been a leading contributor to the UK’s economic recovery since the banking crisis of 2007. On the other side of the coin, UK tourists and business travellers are worth over £22billion to EU countries in direct expenditure alone, including over £6billion a year to Spain. Of course, the links between the UK economy and those of its European neighbours have been established over centuries, but these have deepened significantly over the 40 plus years of the UK’s EU membership. The role of travel in enhancing and maintaining our economic ties adds enormous weight to the need to ensure that harmful and unnecessary barriers to travel are avoided as we leave.
The priorities we have identified are just as important for the domestic market, which relies heavily on the millions of EU citizens who visit the United Kingdom each year. They are by far the largest source market for the UK, and any barrier to travel will not just affect our Members’ businesses, it will also damage the thousands of hotels, restaurants and tourists attractions, which rely heavily on visitors from the European Union.