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With only five months to go until the UK formally leaves the European Union, the travel industry is still none the wiser as to what kind of situation they will face at the end of March.
That’s because the UK government and EU have yet to agree on a withdrawal deal and tourism is just one of the sectors that this uncertainty impacts.
The UK’s laws are entwined with those of the other 27 member states. Neither side has announced what will happen on the date of departure. If there is no deal economic and political chaos is real possibility. Nobody is quite sure what will happen with flights and visas.
Although travel giant TUI Group operates across a number of European markets, the UK is a key part of its business and ensuring there is as little disruption as possible is crucial.
“I think the simple answer to this is we obviously need more clarity to really precisely say how we’ll respond to it but an organization as big as TUI has obviously got a lot of plans and preparations to…cater for whatever scenario comes at us with Brexit,” said David Burling, TUI’s CEO for markets and airlines, at World Travel Market London last week
.“We have had a lot of meetings as TUI Group but also as [part of] the UK travel industry with the relevant authorities and ministers about what we want,” Burling said.
He added that TUI wasn’t just talking to UK officials but had been in dialogue with European representatives as well.
It is not just TUI that is continuing its lobbying game with only a few months to go until Brexit actually happens.
Tour operators, including Thomas Cook, spent time during WTM London talking to the Spanish government about tourism.
The UK is Spain’s biggest international market and in 2017, 18 million Brits visited the country. Should Brexit disrupt travel in any way, that number could fall.
“British tourists need to know that Spain next year will still be an attractive destination,” said Reyes Maroto, the Spanish minister for trade, industry and tourism.
A spokesperson for Thomas Cook said: “Spain is our most popular destination, so we have a shared interest with the Spanish government to make sure our customers can enjoy smooth and uninterrupted travel to Spain – regardless of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. We welcome their support in this matter.”
The problem for both sides is that decision doesn’t sit with Spain—although it will play a part—but with the EU as a whole.
Travel companies and those destinations that rely on UK tourists may want as little as possible to change, the decision, however is out of their hands.