How Brexit changed UK's tourism industry?
Cui Xingyu
Since the Brexit referendum on June 23, 2016, there have long been chaotic divorce negotiations with the EU, leading to widespread confusion and disruptions in many aspects.
So far, the ongoing Brexit mayhem has had some effects on the UK's tourism industry amid a significant fall in the British pound, a shift in tourist numbers, and a decline in the share price of tourism and hospitality companies.
While no one knows where the Brexit is process is headed, one thing is certain: it has already changed UK's tourism landscape.

Inbound tourism

UK's inbound tourism market enjoyed a big leap after the Brexit vote in 2016. The value of the pound saw a sharp fall right after the referendum, making Britain a more attractive holiday destination.
How many tourists are visiting the UK? CGTN Photo

How many tourists are visiting the UK? CGTN Photo

According to data released in February by VisitBritain (VB), UK's official tourism website, the number of overseas visits to Britain in 2017 reached 39.2 million, with a year-on-year growth of 4.25 percent. Visitors from overseas took advantage of the favorable exchange rate, especially for a country widely known as one of the most expensive places to visit.
However, in 2018, the magic of weak pound started to wear off with an estimated 37.5 million overseas visits, down 4.3 percent from a year earlier.
In 2019, VB predicts moderate growth of overseas visits to the UK, though possible disruptions of Brexit were not taken into account. VB points out that Brexit remains a major uncertainty, and risks are very much weighted to the downside, especially given the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.
Flags flutter outside the Houses of Parliament ahead of a Brexit vote in London, Britain, March 13, 2019. /VCG Photo

Flags flutter outside the Houses of Parliament ahead of a Brexit vote in London, Britain, March 13, 2019. /VCG Photo

Britain's tourism industry also worries that European tourists might stay away. The first seven weeks of 2019 saw weak flight bookings from Europe, dropping significantly year-on-year, especially for flights after March 29, the original deadline for Britain to leave the EU, said VB.
Travel specialists indicate that the UK's tourism industry could lose billions over the next five years if Britain crashes out of the European Union later this month without a divorce deal.

Outbound tourism

According to the Office for National Statistics, the year 2017 saw 72.8 million outbound trips from the UK, and the EU is the main destination with 75 percent of the 53 million leisure and business trips made to a European country. 
However, the overall weak pound, in turn, drove many Britons to stay home instead of holidaying abroad.
Also, the uncertainty around the Brexit negotiations and the need to plan in advance have already forced many UK outbound travel and hospitality companies to alter their accommodation contracts, according to a 2018 report by Seasonal Businesses in Travel (SBIT).
If the worst-case scenario happens with a "no-deal" Brexit, the rules for passports, visas, health care, driving and more would change for Britons when traveling to Europe, according to the UK government. 
CGTN Photo

CGTN Photo

The likelihood of Britain leaving the European bloc on March 29 as originally planned is now unlikely after MPs voted against leaving without a deal and in favor of a delay, but the ball is now in Brussels' court. Regardless of where talks lead later this week, both EU and the UK government have guaranteed the normal operations of flights even in a no-deal scenario. 
EU nationals will be able to continue to travel to the UK on ID cards until 2021, and those from EU member states will continue to be able to travel without a visa. This will continue to be the case even if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, says UK government.
In order to boost tourism, Britain plans to introduce e-gates at the UK border. From June 2019, citizens of the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea will be allowed to use e-gates at UK airports and at Eurostar terminals. Moreover, landing cards will begin to be abolished to improve the flow of passengers and reduce queues.
However, experts say many holidaymakers are in wait-and-see mode amid continued uncertainty over visas, insurance and more.
(With input from Reuters)