Outbound travel to ‘take a hit’ from Brexit, says WTTC

The UK travel sector will “hold up” this year despite uncertainty about Brexit, but outbound travel will “take a hit”, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

WTTC president and chief executive David Scowsill expressed concern about “the key issues” affecting travel and called on the UK government to address mobility of labour, open skies, visas and border systems.

The WTTC Economic Impact Report 2017, published on Monday, forecasts spending by overseas visitors to Britain will rise 6.2% this year on last.

But it predicts outbound spending will fall 4.2% year on year “as the drop in the value of the pound will continue to impact UK citizen’s spending power and their propensity to holiday abroad”.

Surveys of UK consumer travel intentions have so far found a general willingness to spend more on overseas holidays this year, while latest figures from industry analyst GfK show a 6% increase in passenger bookings for Summer 2017.

WTTC president and chief executive David Scowsill said: “Sometimes reality can buck the economic trends, but we suggest the impact will be negative due to the inflation rate and its impact on disposable income.”

Scowsill called on the UK government to focus on “four key issues”, saying: “We urge the government to take into account the specific needs of our industry for labour mobility, to protect visa-free travel, to remain part of the European single aviation market, [and] to invest in [border] processes, systems and infrastructure.”

He told Travel Weekly: “These issues are critical and my guess is none of them will get any clarity for two years. Everything we’ve heard is that there can’t be piecemeal negotiations. I can’t see these things being agreed absent of an overall trade agreement.”

Scowsill added: “That worries me. It took Canada seven years to do a trade deal with the EU, so two years seems optimistic.”

In the meantime, he said: “In Japan, China and elsewhere, industries are being forced to take decisions [on investment in the UK] when they can’t see with clarity what the environment will be.”

Regarding the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, Scowsill said: “I’ve not seen anything [so far] to make me feel more optimistic.”

The Economic Impact Report, produced in conjunction with Oxford Economics, reported travel’s total contribution to the UK economy rose 2.6% last year to £209 billion or 10.8% of GDP.

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