Brexit: As Britain Votes to Leave EU, What’s Next for Travel

Photo by Roux

The New York Times reports that citizens of Britain have voted “yes” on a referendum to leave the European Union (EU). In a larger-than-expected margin of victory, the “Leave” campaign won 52 percent of the vote, with the “Remain” campaign garnering 48 percent. In the wake of the vote British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced plans to step down in October. 

With fears of immigration driving the vote to leave, according to experts cited by the Times, the vote will have an enormous impact on the politics and economy of Europe in the years to come. 

“The main impact will be massive disorder in the EU system for the next two years,” Thierry de Montbrial, founder and executive chairman of the French Institute of International Relations, told the Times. “There will be huge political transition costs, on how to solve the British exit, and the risk of a domino effect or bank run from other countries that think of leaving.”


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What does this mean for travel? The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has emphasized that travel to, from and within the EU and UK will not be affected in the short term. Under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty, there will be a two year period of negotiation following the UK’s formal statement of its intention to leave the EU. This period can also be extended by the agreement of all parties. During this period legislation surrounding travel and tourism will remain unchanged, the WTTC said. 

Matthew D. Upchurch, chairman and CEO of Virtuoso, tells Travel Agent, “The self-determination and sovereignty of nations is undeniable; however, it is our belief that travel and tourism, and the freedom to travel, are key for the world’s economy and understanding between peoples.”

Mark Meader, VP industry affairs for the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), says that the organization is monitoring the story to understand its impact on the travel industry. 

“ASTA continues to monitor the situation and its potential ripple effect and will continue to advocate for and keep our members informed where warranted,” Meader says. 

A spokesperson from Travel Leaders Group tells Travel Agent that it is too soon to know the full impact of the vote, although if the British pound continues to decline in value, the UK could provide dramatically increased value for Americans traveling there. 

According to The Washington Post, the decision has sparked a plunge in the value of the British pound, which fell 10 percent over six hours to its lowest level versus the U.S. dollar since 1985, which could boost the purchasing power of Americans abroad, making travel cheaper for U.S. tourists. 

In terms of rail travel, the Eurail Pass regions will remain completely unchanged, Silvia Görlach, sales and marketing manager for Eurail Group G.I.E., tells Travel Agent. 

“The referendum results should not deter travelers from visiting Europe,” says Görlach. “Current exchange rates with the pound and euro prove all the more favorable for U.S. citizens.” 

Officials from low-cost airline Ryanair told The Daily Telegraph that citizens of Britain have been “booking our £9.99 seats in record numbers in what will be the last big seat sale of its kind, as they look to flee a country which will run by Boris, Gove and Farage.”

EasyJet told the Telegraph that its initial focus will be to accelerate discussions with regulators in the UK and EU to ensure that the UK remains part of the single EU aviation market. Flights between the UK and EU had declined in cost as a result of the UK’s membership in the EU, according to an analysis in The Guardian. Andrew Swaffield, CEO of budget airline Monarch, told The Guardian that an exit could lead to higher airfares and fewer flights between the UK and EU. 

Here in the U.S., stocks have fallen following the result of the vote, according to USA Today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 2.9 percent as of 7:44 a.m. ET, and Oxford Economics is projecting that the UK’s gross domestic product could fall 1.3 percent over the next two years. 

Is a Scotland Vote Next?

The result of the vote has revived talk of Scottish independence from the UK. Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, told the BBC that a second independence referendum is “highly likely” that a second independence referendum would take place in the wake of the Brexit vote. At issue is Scotland’s future membership in the EU, with Sturgeon calling it “democratically unacceptable” that Scotland could be taken out of the EU against its will. 

Scotland had voted to remain part of the UK in a September 2014 referendum. At the time, Sturgeon had said that “there is plainly a huge appetite for change.”

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