How has Brexit impacted on UK tourism?

The outcome of the EU referendum sent shockwaves throughout the travel and tourism sector, with many even worried about a mass exodus and global boycott of the country to punish the population for the result.

Brexit’s been playing out for more than a year now, so how has itreally affected holidays to and from the UK? Joining forces with Lycetts — a provider of insurance for arcades, games and travel — we’ve looked at how Brexit has affected travel and tourism for domestic and international holidaymakers.

What’s the holiday vibe in the UK since Brexit?

Positively, it doesn’t seem that the trend for jetting off on holiday has weakened since Brexit. In fact, it’s improved. According to a travel trends report bythe Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), bookings for foreign holidays throughout the summer of 2017 rose by 11% compared to last year. And the trend only promises to get better, with 26% of all holidaymakers saying that they are ‘very likely’ to visit a country that they’ve never been to before and 29% stating to be ‘looking for a holiday to a new resort or city’.

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Home holidays

Of course, it’s a huge boost to the UK economy to have more people holidaying at home and, thankfully, this seems to be happening more since Brexit. ABTA, also found that holidays in the UK increased 71% in 2016 – up from 64% in the previous year. But is this because people have less money to spend on holidays since Brexit? It doesn’t seem to be the case. Barclays’ Destination UK report showed that more than a third of adults across Britain are choosing to holiday closer to home this year, because of personal preference, not cost.

So, why are we holidaying at home more since the referendum? People who were asked why they chose to have a UK holiday had a variety of reasons, including:

  • Spending more time in the UK (34%).
  • Affordability (32%).
  • Enjoyment of a past UK holiday (23%).
  • Variety of holiday activities in the UK compared to before (15%).
  • Lack of time for a holiday abroad (14%).

So, where in the UK are people heading to for their time off work? According to a survey:

  • 30% were planning on visiting south-west England.
  • 22% were going to Scotland.
  • 20% went for Wales.
  • 20% chose Yorkshire and Humberside.
  • 18% were packing for a London trip.

The popularity of choosing domestic holidays has led to a growth in use of the word ‘staycation’ (which describes taking a holiday at home). Other interesting findings from the Barclay’s Destination UK report are the UK average spends on their staycation:

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

This adds weight to the argument that Brexit has done little to dampen the holiday spirit.

Is the UK still attracting visitors from abroad?

The UK has long been a top holiday destination for people across all continents.So, how has the referendum affected international visitors? Apparently, very well. Over 60% of around 7,000 worldwide travellers specified that they were now more interested in visiting the UK than they were last year, according to the Destination UK report.

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

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

Fortunately for the UK, the average spend of international tourists is huge, with accommodation coming to £667, shopping reaching £453, and dining sitting at £339.Foreign visitors have already spent a record £2.7 billion in January and February 2017, according to official figures collected from VisitBritain — a rise of 11% compared to 2016.

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.”

Top UK tourist attractions

A huge part of holidays anywhere is sightseeing and it’s understandable that people working at the UK’s top attractions were worried about a decrease in visitors following Brexit. But, looking at figures from a report by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA), numbers to UK attractions have indeed risen by 7%, with 66,938,947 people visiting London attractions last year.

“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,” commented ALVA director, Bernard Donoghue.

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

How does the world rank the UK?

Another indication of our stability as a holiday destination around the world is how we’re rated for various tourism attributes. 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 & monuments 5
Vibrant city life & urban attractions 4
Would like to visit if money was no object 5
Rich in natural beauty 24
Culture 5
Interesting & exciting for contemporary culture 4
Excels at sport 5
Has a rich cultural heritage 7

Top tourism word associations

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

Top cultural venues associations

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

The future of UK travel and tourism

As you can see, the UK seems stronger than ever as a top travel destination for both people here and visitors from abroad. But how will the UK fare once we officially leave the EU? ABTA hopes so by asking the government to focus on five key points in the country’s Brexit negotiations:

  1. Operational stability — such as keeping access to employment markets and continuing to look into tax and border issues.
  2. Opportunities for growth — this might include reducing Air Passenger Duty, cutting visa costs and working towards world-class connectivity.
  3. Visa-free travel between the UK and the EU — for fast and efficient processes through ports.
  4. 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.
  5. Ability to travel freely within Europe and beyond— including ensuring that UK airlines can still fly and protecting rail, road and sea routes.


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