Comment: Brexit shock will not dent Brits’ desire to travel

Comment: Brexit shock will not dent Brits’ desire to travel

The pound is weaker but US partners’ marketing spend goes further, says Jonathan Sloan chairman, Visit USA Association UK

Most of us can remember where we were when Princess Diana died or when 9/11 happened, and the older ones among us will recall when JFK was assassinated.

Now there’s a new one to add to the list: where you were when the UK voted to leave the EU. I was sitting on a British Airways overnight flight from Miami, having just attended the IPW conference in New Orleans.

Having flown overnight, I wasn’t privy to any of the votes coming in or which way the vote was swaying. The pilot simply announced that we were 40 minutes from Heathrow, the toilets would be out of use in 20 minutes and the British public had voted to leave the EU.

It was a huge shock to hear the result and the implications that it carries. Now, we all want to know how it will impact the travel industry. Whether we are better in or out of the EU is irrelevant, as we have made our decision as a nation and we have to make the best of the current situation we find ourselves in.

Pound’s ups and downs

One of the first implications, the weaker pound, will have an impact on buying power overseas. However, the British appetite to travel will always remain strong, particularly among the demographic of the US-bound traveller.

UK outbound tourists are among the world’s most robust travellers – they successfully weathered the 2008 recession, and will continue to prioritise travel as one of their foremost activities.

The positive factors of the US being a mature and established outbound market will mean the long-term loyalty we have experienced as a destination will no doubt be here to stay.

On the flip side, travel partners in the US will now find their current purchasing power will have grown due to exchange rate differences, so marketing to a UK audience has never been better and more affordable.

It cannot be doubted that we are now moving into a period of some uncertainty but one thing remains clear: the UK travel industry is united in its ambition to raise awareness of the priorities for travel businesses to ensure that UK holidaymakers remain confident about travelling.

Business as usual for agents

The first reaction from travel agents in the UK is that it’s been business as usual – and in many cases even better than usual – since the Brexit vote. As the Visit USA Association in the UK, we will continue to work with our 200-plus members to promote the US as a whole through these turbulent times.

Our two main political parties must put their own houses in order as quickly and effectively as possible. The current situation, with both parties essentially without a leader and the non-stop party politics, should not be allowed to take precedence over the need to stabilise our economy – not least exchange rates, which are so vital to travel, at this time.

Every new twist or turn that happens within the UK political arena is another threat to the UK outbound travel business. The road out of Europe is going to be a long one, with plenty of bumps along the way, but I am sure the travel industry will come out smiling at the other end – we always do.


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