What Brexit Means for Travellers


Stories by Demola Ojo

In a historic and, for many, shocking vote, Britain has decided to leave the European Union. In a nationwide referendum, Britain’s “Leave” camp won a stunning 52 percent of the vote, setting the nation on the path to separation from the 28-member European Union. While the effects will be wide-ranging and may take months or even years to fully appear, here are some guesses on how it will affect travellers, from air fares to the value of the pound.

Air fares may go up

Budget, no-frills carriers like EasyJet have helped make travel to the UK from various parts of Europe seamless—and cheaper than ever. Now that the UK has decided to exit, it will likely mean new air service agreements have to be negotiated. That means fares could increase.

Currently, the ‘Open Skies’ agreement allows for more airlines, more routes, and lower fares between EU member states. The single aviation area gives airlines freedom to fly across Europe and since its introduction passengers have seen fares fall by around 40 per cent and routes increase by 180 per cent. Once Britain no longer belongs, those benefits could disappear. Note however that this effect will be felt when travelling between European destinations and should not affect direct flights between Lagos and London.

Service could go down

According to a report by the Association of British Travel Agents, some 70 percent of jobs in London’s travel and tourism sector are dependent on migrants. Given that one of the tenets of “Leave” supporters was reforming immigration policies and curbing the number of arrivals to the UK, it’s possible that an eventual downturn in immigration could lead to short-staffing in the travel and tourism industries. An estimated 63,000 jobs could be lost.

The pound could take a pounding

The US dollar to British pound has long been less than equal. But as soon as the vote’s outcome was declared last week, the pound began a steep decline against major worldwide currencies, as well as the naira. While this will mean a rise in the cost of travel for UK residents, it should make travel to the UK cheaper.

Fewer international visitors

London is one of the world’s most popular cities, and outside of the capital, everything from tiny, picturesque towns to the magnificent Scottish Highlands draw tourists from around the world. But according to travel-deals publisher Travelzoo, enthusiasm for travel to the UK may decrease in the wake of the Brexit: One-third of travellers from Germany, Italy, and Spain—and a quarter from France—said they would be less inclined to travel to the UK.

In the event of a “Leave” vote; 10 percent of travellers from Canada and 12 percent from the US said the same.

More access for Commonwealth citizens?

Brexit should not deter Nigerian travellers as citizens of the country did not enjoy the special immigration privileges open to other EU countries. However, analysts say that while UK immigration controls are bound to be tighter, members of Commonwealth states may have easier access to the UK in future. This should be good news for Nigerians.

So while the effects for travellers will be determined by where they’re from, the outlook for the UK is not so good; it’s estimated that Brexit could cost the UK tourism industry as much as £4.1 billion ($5.9 billion) annually in international tourist spending alone.