Brexit: the view from European shores

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In general it seems European travellers and travel executives would like to see the UK remain in the EU or - at least - think it should for its own good

With the polls now neck and neck, this week the UK will know for certain whether it will remain in or leave the European Union (EU). While it is impossible to say with any certainty how travel will change in the event of a ‘leave’ vote, it will shine a light on the things travellers have come to take for granted. Among those the Schengen border-free zone, a single currency, no roaming charges and low cost flights.

Last week we summed up views from UK travel executives on the impact of a Brexit on the sector. But what do European travellers and travel executives make of the move?

Earlier this month, travel deals firm Travelzoo published research claiming that European tourists to the UK could drop by a third following a Brexit, and cost the UK’s tourism industry as much as £4.1bn a year. The survey was conducted using an online questionnaire in the five largest EU member states by population, as well as the US and Canada. And the results were that a third of travellers from Germany, Italy and Spain, and a quarter from France, said they would be less inclined to travel to the UK if it decides to leave. What is more, close to 70% of people surveyed in the four largest EU nations – France, Germany, Italy and Spain - are in favour of the UK remaining. In ‘leave’s’ favour, however, some respondents, most notably from France, believe that leaving the EU could make the UK safer.

‘In’ seems to be the word from European travel executives too, the general consensus being that it would be a shame if the UK exited the EU given the simplicity of travel in a united Europe.

Marc Hofmann CEO of CheckMyBus, an international metasearch based in Germany, goes a step further: “Although the impact of a Brexit on individual travellers should be limited, I believe that UK’s highly internationalised travel and transportation sector might suffer. Increasing costs for activities in the EU combined with more restrictions for the acquisition of capital but also for investments may lead to a competitive disadvantage. This is also true for the vibrant travel start-up scene.”

He has a point. As we reported last week, UK tech entrepreneurs are largely in favour of remaining in the UK, citing the ability to recruit the right labour, raising capital, increasing costs of their activities in the EU and regulatory uncertainty, particularly around the handling of data – the lifeblood of the tech sector – as reasons.

Dutch entrepreneur Jeroen van Velzen, founder and CEO of Roadmap, a white-label corporate travel app “doesn’t like European bureaucrats, their stupid laws and strange rules,” anymore than the next person.

But, he continues, “the system itself, an open economy with less burdens, free trade and movement of people is of so much more value to us as business people and travellers. I think a Brexit is a path of extreme uncertainty for the UK, its economy, its currency its citizens and the UK and European travel industry”.

“…a Brexit is a path of extreme uncertainty for the UK, its economy, its currency, its citizens and the UK and European travel industry”

Jeroen van Velzen, CEO and founder, Roadmap

An even franker, though off-the-record, view comes from a senior executive at a mid-sized European hotel chain, who doesn’t believe it will happen. “Let’s just say it makes all the populists in Europe look like nobs. To damage your own country’s economy and that of a whole continent, including its image as an economic and military partner, and provoke another Easter Rising in Scotland just for a handful of votes is so absurd that I doubt it will happen. But should it happen, yes there will be an impact on travel but in what proportion to the other consequences…” 

And a view from another European hotelier CitizenM’s COO Lennert de Jong: “My opinion is based pretty much on what I have read and see logically as a conclusion: less Britons travelling to Europe and a big gap in the hospitality workforce in the UK, as 40% are from EU countries.”

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