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Brexit’s impact on British tourism

Many consider the country to be in chaos since the referendum of June 2016. While there’s certainly economic uncertainty, has it really caused harm to the UK’s travel and tourism sector? Or, has it instead worked in its favour?

Lycetts — a supplier of arcade, gaming and travel insurance — aims to find out how Brexit has affected tourism for residents and visitors.

Holidays at home

Holidays don’t always have to take place abroad. In fact, it benefits the UK economy to have more people spending money that stays within our borders. The Association of British Travel Agents(ABTA) carried out a Travel Trends report in 2017 and found that holidays in the UK actually rose a massive 71% in 2016 – up from 64% in the previous year. And there’s little indication available that states this is due to an economic downturn or personal funding problems. Barclays’ Destination UK report showed that more than a third of adults across Britain are choosing to holiday closer to home this year more so because of personal preference, not cost.

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Here are results from a survey that asked why adults are staying here for holidays:

  • “I would like to spend more time in the UK.” (34%)
  • “Holidays in the UK are now more affordable.”’ (32%)
  • “I enjoyed a recent UK holiday and am keen to have another here.” (23%)
  • “There are more holiday activities in the UK than there were in the past.” (15%)
  • “I have less time than before to holiday abroad.” (14%)

Another positive finding was that UK holiday destinations benefit the entire country and aren’t restricted to a region. When asked as part of a survey, 30% of respondents said they were planning on visiting south-west England, 22% were heading to Scotland, 20% had chosen Wales, 20% opted for Yorkshire and Humberside, and 18% were packing for a London trip.Out of 2,000 UK holidaymakers, 40% were planning a city break, narrowly beating the 37% who stated that they’d prefer to visit a rural location.

This type of holiday is called a ‘staycation’. Digging deeper into the Barclay’s Destination UK report, it’s clear that holidaying in the UKcan have a positive impact on the British economy. People who holiday in the UKspend on average:

  • £309 on accommodation.
  • £152 on dining out.
  • £121 on shopping.
  • £72 on holiday parks (if part of the holiday).

International visits to the UK

Of course, it’s great that UK residents are pumping money into the economy by staying at home for holidays. But what about international visitors? Out of more than 7,000 worldwide travellers, over 60% specified that they were now more interested in visiting places around the UK than they were 12 months ago, according tothe previously-mentioned Destination UK report. On top of this, a massive 97% also said they wanted to see the UKin the next few months or very soon.

The most popular regions for international visitors to the UK are:

  • London (67%)
  • Scotland (44%)
  • Wales (29%)
  • Northern Ireland (24%)
  • Yorkshire and Humberside (17%)

The Barclays report also found that the average spend on accommodation by international holidaymakerswas £667 — more than double what UK holidaymakers typically pay. Factor in £453 on shopping and £339 on food and drink, and you have a healthy contribution to the economy that hasn’t been weakened by Brexit.

Official figures collected by VisitBritain have discovered that foreign visitors have already spent a record £2.7 billion in January and February 2017 alone! This is a rise of 11% compared to 2016’s figures, year on year.

Patricia Yates, director of VisitBritain, said: “2017 is off to a cracking start for inbound tourism. Britain is offering great value for overseas visitors and we can see the success of our promotions in international markets. We must continue to build on our message of welcome and value in our high-spending markets such as China, Europe and the US.”

Why are people visiting the UK post Brexit?

What’s the attraction of the UK since the referendum? VisitBritain’s 2016 ‘How The World Views Britain’ report explains how the country ranks for different tourism attributes:

Dimension/attribute UK rank in 2016
Tourism 5
Rich in historic buildings and monuments 5
Vibrant city life and urban attractions 4
Would like to visit if money was no object 5
Rich in natural beauty 24
Culture 5
Interesting and exciting for contemporary culture 4
Excels at sport 5
Has a rich cultural heritage 7

Top tourism word associations for the UK

  1. Educational – 34%
  2. Fascinating – 31%
  3. Exciting – 30%
  4. Romantic – 16%
  5. Relaxing – 16%

Top cultural venues associations for the UK

  1. Museums – 47%
  2. Films – 39%
  3. Music – 39%
  4. Sports – 36%
  5. Pop videos – 29%

What do Brits think about heading abroad?

That’s not to say Brits haven’t ventured abroad since last summer. Early bookings for holidays abroad throughout the summer season of 2017 went up by 11% compared to last year, according to ABTA’s Travel Trends. What’s more, 26% of all holidaymakers have said that they are very likely to visit a country that they’ve never been to before, while 29% said they will look for a holiday to a new resort or city, even if they have been to the country in the past.

UK tourist attractions since Brexit

It’s not just spending money in restaurants, bars and hotels that benefits the country when it comes to holidays. UK attractions also risked a downturn since Brexit. However, looking at figures from a report by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA), visitor numbers to UK attractions have risen by 7%, with 66,938,947 people visiting London attractions last year — more than the entire UK population! Here’s a rundown of the top tourist venues and how many people visited last year:

Attraction Part of the UK Total visits in 2016
British Museum London 6,420,395
National Gallery London 6,262,839
Tate Modern London 5,839,197
Natural History Museum (South Kensington) London 4,624,113
Southbank Centre London 3,909,376
Somerset House London 3,443,220
Science Museum London 3,245,750
Victoria and Albert Museum (South Kensington) London 3,022,086
Tower of London London 2,741,126
Royal Museums Greenwich London 2,451,023
National Portrait Gallery London 1,949,330
Chester Zoo Chester 1,898,059
Kew Gardens London 1,828,956
Westminster Abbey London 1,819,945
National Museum of Scotland Edinburgh 1,810,948
Edinburgh Castle Edinburgh 1,778,548
Royal Albert Hall London 1,660,123
Scottish National Gallery Edinburgh 1,544,069
St Paul’s Cathedral London 1,519,018
British Library London 1,500,986
Old Royal Naval College London 1,477,117
Stonehenge Wiltshire 1,381,855
Royal Academy London 1,285,595
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum Glasgow 1,259,318
Riverside Museum Glasgow 1,259,042
Roman Baths & Pump Room Somerset 1,216,938
ZSL London Zoo London 1,211,279
RHS: Garden Wisley Woking 1,110,050
Tate Britain London 1,081,542
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre & Swan Theatre Stratford-upon-Avon 1,069,129
Imperial War Museum London 1,011,172
Eden Project Cornwall 1,000,363

ALVA director, Bernard Donoghue, commented:“Many of our members in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Cornwall had record years in 2016, although the first nine months of the year were hard for some of our members, particularly in London. However, by the end of the year, nearly all attractions were reporting growth from overseas and domestic visitors.”

ABTA: making a success of travel and tourism despite Brexit

Overall, travel and tourism both here and abroad appears healthy.But how will the UK fare once we officially leave the EU? ABTA advises that the government needs to focus on five key points in the country’s Brexit negotiations:

  1. Grabbing opportunities for growth — this might include reducing Air Passenger Duty, cutting visa costs and working towards world-class connectivity.
  2. Protecting consumer rights — such as mobile roaming fees in Europe being abolished and ensuring UK travellers have continued access to either free or minimal-cost medical treatment.
  3. Maintaining our ability to travel freely within Europe and beyond—including ensuring that UK airlines can still fly and protecting rail, road and sea routes.
  4. Keeping visa-free travel between the UK and the EU — for fast and efficient processes through ports.
  5. Giving UK businesses operational stability — such as keeping access to employment markets and continuing to look into tax and border issues.

If these requirements are met, there’s little reason to believe the UK won’t continue to flourish as a top holiday destination.



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