As Britain heads to the polls on Thursday to vote on whether
to leave the European Union (a ‘Brexit’ as it has been called in the media), the
most immediate concern for U.S. travelers is the vote's impact on the British pound.
“The only thing that matters at the moment in terms of what
is going to affect the travel industry in Europe is currency,” said Tom
Jenkins, CEO of the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA). “If there is a
vote to leave, then I think people would expect the pound to drop. If there is
a vote to stay in, people are anticipating the pound to go up.”
A weaker pound against the dollar could stimulate demand, enabling
U.S. travelers to get more for their money.
If Britain does vote to leave the EU, the impact on travel,
trade and other regulations that are currently in place could take several years
to sort out, according to a recent report published by the Association of
British Travel Agents (ABTA) together with Deloitte.
The ABTA noted that tourism and travel between the U.K. and
the EU has been facilitated by the free movement of goods, services,
investments and people throughout the EU, and that a Brexit could jeopardize
that free movement. For instance, the association noted that the travel sector employs
a significant number of immigrants and that any changes limiting the sector’s
ability to recruit or employ foreign nationals, including those from the EU,
could be a challenge for many British travel businesses.
As for how the Brexit publicity has impacted travel to the
U.K. from the U.S., operators reported that it hasn’t influenced bookings.
“To date we have not seen a shift in the pattern of guest bookings.
Britain in particular remains one of our top-selling destinations with a broad
appeal to international travelers, especially with Her Majesty’s 90th birthday
and the continued interest in the royal family,” said Trafalgar CEO Gavin
He noted that the pending referendum has produced an air of
uncertainty in the company's U.K. office, which is a mix of British and
European employees. Should the U.K. leave the EU, there could be a logistical
“From a global economic and travel industry perspective, I
personally hope that they remain part of the EU,” Tollman said.
Vanessa Parrish, channel marketing manager for the Globus
family of brands, also reported that travel to the U.K. hasn’t been affected by
“Britain is one of our most popular destinations for the
Globus, Cosmos and Monograms brands,” Parrish said. “The June 23 vote is an
important one, and time will tell, but presently we do not foresee any
immediate implications for our business and think both the U.K. and Ireland
will continue to be very strong destinations for us in 2017.”
Collette, too, said that transatlantic travel to the U.K. is
“business as usual.” However, the referendum hype has affected British
vacationers (Collette also serves outbound travelers from the U.K.).
“There is such a large amount of speculation around the
campaign and the outcome of the decision. Our U.K. team has experienced a lot
of consumer uncertainty over the last few months, which has been fueled by this
referendum,” said Michelle Laverick, Collette’s head of marketing in the U.K.
“It seems that many decisions have been put on hold until the result. We’re
hopeful that that everything will become clear over the next few days and that
business will boom once it does.”