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1 June 2016, 08:20
Bournemouth University researchers have found a UK exit from the EU could cost our tourism industry more than £4 billion a year.
According to new research published today, with online travel deals company Travelzoo, a third of travellers from Germany, Italy and Spain - and a quarter from France - say they would be less inclined to travel to the UK in the event of a Leave vote. Four in 10 respondents from EU countries also worry that Brexit could make UK holidays more expensive.
It found sentiment among the four largest European Union nations (France, Germany, Italy and Spain) is that the UK should stay in the EU, with just under 70% in the Remain camp. In spite of this, respondents from some nations - notably France - believe that leaving the EU could make the UK a safer destination for holidays.
Although almost 75% of the UK's international visitors come from within the EU, even respondents from further afield (10% of those from Canada and 12% from the US) stated they would be less likely to come to a post-Brexit UK.
Researchers also suggest holidays for British tourists in Europe could become more expensive if the sentiment expressed by some of our neighbours in France and Spain becomes more widespread: 40 per cent of respondents from these countries feel it would be fair to impose higher fees, such as a hiked city tax, on British visitors, if the UK votes Leave on June 23.
The study found UK travellers have their own concerns regarding the impact Brexit could have on the cost of their holiday. Over a quarter (28%) are concerned that withdrawal from the EU could lead to more expensive holidays for them, while 56% are worried that Brexit would reduce the ease and flexibility with which British nationals can currently travel inside the EU.
Joel Brandon-Bravo, UK Managing Director of Travelzoo, said:
"Our neighbours in Europe clearly don't want the UK to leave the EU, and the impact of this sentiment could translate into a significant drop in bookings to the UK from the largest European countries. When combined with a potential loss of more than 10 per cent of visitors from North America, as indicated in our research, it's clear that Brexit could be very bad news for the UK's domestic tourism industry. Similarly, UK consumers looking to travel abroad also have concerns about Brexit impacting the outbound tourism industry."
John Fletcher, Pro Vice Chancellor at Bournemouth University, concluded:
"Although the impact of Brexit on tourism is a difficult one to predict, given that France, Germany, Italy and Spain make up four of the UK's top seven tourist-supplying countries - accounting for more than 11 million international visitors annually(1) - it's likely that the net result of Brexit will be significantly negative for the UK economy. While the figures above reflect only the direct tourism-related economic impacts of voting to leave the EU, if tourist spending from overseas visitors did indeed fall by £4.1 billion per year, this is likely to reduce HMRC revenue by more than £1.1 billion and reduce support for around 63,000 jobs in the UK(1).
"Even though a UK exit would take some time to complete, especially as renegotiating our revised status with Europe could take five to seven years from start to completion, there will be immediate effects created by this uncertainty."
However, Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns - who is backing a Leave vote - disagrees there would be such a harmful impact. He said:
"There is no absolutely no reason why that should be the case at all.
"This doesn't affect us at all, people don't come here because we're in the European Union. They come to see our ancient heritage, royal palaces, London, Shakespeare country.
"Australia and New Zealand already have visa-free travel to the EU. It would be bizarre for our continental neighbours to impose visa travel arrangements on UK citizens. Similarly, it would be pretty bizarre for us to do the same in reverse."