There can be little doubt now that uncertainty about Brexit is affecting bookings. Analyst GfK reports that last week was the third in a row to show a substantial year-on-year decline in summer 2019 bookings.
The fall appears directly related to headlines in the consumer press highlighting potential barriers to travel.
It is galling to know that so many of these – ‘No deal threat to 5m tickets’ (The Times), ‘Five million airline tickets may be cancelled’ (Which? Travel), ‘Passport chaos: 3.5m passports could be INVALID’ (Daily Express) – have been baseless.
The UK government and EU have confirmed flights will operate and passports with six months’ validity will be accepted at borders. Yet the damage has been done.
The fear now is that the impact will continue until there is some certainty on Brexit. That could still be weeks away.
The impact is not confined to outbound bookings. We report this week from the UKinbound convention in Glasgow where VisitBritain revealed overseas bookings to Britain are running more than 10% down on last year – with the decline from northern Europe, in general, and France in particular. Concern about post-Brexit travel is the main reason.
VisitBritain head Sally Balcombe reports: “We’ve said to the government, ‘Give us some messaging’.” The outbound sector deserves the same. Having fuelled this uncertainty, the least the government can do is address it head-on.
Cabinet ministers should make clear UK holidaymakers to the EU and EU travellers to Britain can book in expectation of travelling as planned, post-March 29, and they should do so without delay.
Comment from Travel Weekly, February 14 edition
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