Will Brexit Hurt Travel? Depends on Whom You Ask

As negotiations begin between the United Kingdom and the European Union over the UK's departure from the EU, travel groups are raising alarm about Brexit’s potential impact on the travel sector. A new survey, on the other hand, paints a sunnier picture.

With the United Kingdom’s recent triggering of Article 50—the portion of the Treaty of Libson that outlines how a country can leave the European Union—a lot of questions about Brexit’s impact are swirling, especially when it comes to travel.

Industry groups are understandably worried.

“The potential for financial upheaval and pending changes to trade and immigration rules will raise many concerns in corporate management and travel offices—causing some postponement and even outright cancellation of business trips,” Mike McCormick, executive director of the Global Business Travel Association, wrote in a guest post for Hospitality Net this week. “It may also trigger travel budget constriction as management seeks to hedge the uncertainty.”

The Association of British Travel Agents recently called on negotiators to act quickly to prevent harm to the British travel industry.

“Many ABTA members have holidays on sale up to 18 months in advance,” ABTA CEO Mark Tanner wrote in the association’s recent report [PDF]. “With negotiations taking two years, it is vital that the government agrees [to] effective transitional arrangements with the EU whilst the finer details of the UK’s exit are worked out. This will give consumers and businesses confidence to carry on booking and traveling and enable one of Britain and Europe’s leading industries to continue to thrive.”

Some travel professionals are less concerned. According to a recent polling of firms by American Express Global Business Travel, roughly two-thirds of European travel, human resources, and procurement professionals said they don’t expect Brexit to have a negative impact on business travel.

The company’s 2016 European Business Travel Barometer, according to Travel Weekly, reported that many businesses are still generally positive about their travel needs, even as the geopolitical situation grows more complicated.

“The findings of this year’s barometer reflect the positivity we’re seeing in the marketplace,” said Elyes Mrad, American Express Global Business Travel managing director of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. “Businesses are now looking to corporate travel as an investment to support growth objectives rather than treating it as a cost, with small and mid-sized businesses in particular leading the way.”


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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