The new year is a time for making plans – and we think businesses in the South West should be preparing themselves for a bumper summer season. That’s partly because last year’s glorious weather will encourage even more visitors to head for the countryside and the coast in the expectation of a repeat. More importantly, the Brexit cloud hanging over the country has a big silver lining for regions whose economy largely depends on tourism.
Weak pound means strong visitor numbers.
Since the Brexit vote visitors have been flooding into the UK. According to recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) the number of people coming for a short stay in 2017 hit 39.2 million, up four per cent from 2016. This is the highest figure ever recorded and largely thanks to the fall in the value of the pound that followed the ballot result. They spent a whopping £24.5 billion, an increase on the previous year of up nine percent.
In 2018 the pound has continued to weaken and, if we stumble out of the EU next year without a deal, further falls are likely. This means that the number of visitors is almost certain to grow in 2019 – and a lot of them will be heading towards the South West.
Staycations on the up and up.
The flipside of the weaker pound is that foreign holidays are becoming increasingly expensive for Brits. This has already encouraged many of us to holiday at home. Recent figures released by VisitEngland showed that 26.2 million holidays trips across England were taken between January and July last year. This is a six per cent increase on the same time period in 2016.
The latest World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) annual research report shows outbound tourist departures from the UK growing by only 2.5% in 2017 compared to 7.8% in 2016 and 9.9% in 2015. The study also highlights a 5.8% rise in domestic trips last year. Brittany Ferries are already reporting a drop in forward bookings, as UK holidaymakers are delaying booking Channel crossings for next summer amid concerns about the consequences of Brexit.
2019 – we forecast even fewer Brits abroad.
If we leave the EU without a deal travelling to the continent will become more difficult and expensive. Even if these issues are eventually resolved the threat is likely to encourage many of us to holiday at home. A wide variety of problems loom large if no deal is struck:
- British passport holders will become “third country nationals”. Passports that are older than nine years and six months on the date of travel will need to be renewed (at a current cost of £75.50) otherwise entry could be denied.
- A “no-deal” Brexit will also cause all kinds of regulatory problems for airlines. Post-Brexit customs inspections could also have an effect on port operations on both sides of the channel – affecting ferry travel. As well as potential disruption and delays, fares for both are likely to go up.
- After March 2019, the UK driving licence may no longer be sufficient to drive in the EU. British drivers will need International Driving Permits (IDPs) to accompany their UK licence if they want to drive and to hire a car.
- Mobile phone and data roaming charges could go up because operators will no longer have to comply with the existing EU legislation that ensures customers pay the same charges on the continent as at home.
- Will we be able to travel with our pets? If there’s no deal, pet passports issued in the UK will not be valid for travel to the EU. As the requirements for vaccinations, proof thereof, etc increase, it may take at least 3 and up to 4 months to put everything in place for your pet to be able to travel. Some people may no longer be able to travel when they had planned.
- How will health cover abroad be affected? European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) are currently free for British citizens and entitle them to free or discounted medical treatment in an EU country. This includes both new/emergency conditions and those that are pre-existing/ongoing. A House of Lords report in March 2018 warned that “in the absence of an agreement on future relations that covers this topic, the rights currently enjoyed by 27 million UK citizens, thanks to the EHIC, will cease after Brexit”. The cost of private travel insurance is likely to increase and, as many private health insurance companies will not cover pre-existing conditions, the cost of travelling for those who need to access healthcare abroad, such as those requiring regular dialysis, will become prohibitive.
Whatever the outcome of discussions between Westminster and Brussels these potential problems are likely to persuade many people to spend their time and money in the UK – and the South West is one of the most popular holiday destinations in England for visitors from the UK and abroad. With everything from award winning beaches to lush countryside, vibrant cities to picturesque villages, and a well deserved reputation for great food and drink, who wouldn’t want to spend some time here?
New Year’s Resolution – join us at the Source trade show in February.
For all these reasons South West businesses can expect a bumper year – which makes attendance at our show, either as an exhibitor or a visitor, essential. Taking place on the 6th & 7th February, at Westpoint, Exeter, it’s perfectly timed to showcase products that cover the entire food, drink, hospitality and catering market. As you’ll see from the list of exhibitors who have already confirmed, it’s going to be very busy. So book your stand now or register as a visitor to make sure you don’t miss out!