Brexit – Resilience of Independent UK Travel Industry (11.07.16)
Two weeks after Britain voted to leave the European Union, the travel industry, like many other industries, is evaluating the impact. Although it presently feels more ‘doom’ than ‘boom’, I believe the industry will embrace – and adjust to – whatever changes finally come our way.
A cautious mood was initially in evidence when I chaired a debate between fellow AITO (Associational of Independent Tour Operators) travel colleagues earlier this week. The mood was not helped by the fact that over 50% of the 125 member companies had predicted, pre-vote, that a Brexit result would see their business suffer either a ‘great’ or ‘huge’ adverse impact.
Furthermore with a referendum campaign dominated on both sides by a tirade of negative vibes, the immediate lowering of Sterling’s currency rate (to a 31-year low against the dollar), and an overall drop in consumer confidence, the immediate focus revolved around how best to react to a market looking to dip further from recent flat-line trends.
With such an eclectic mix of member companies, AITO is uniquely placed as a sounding board on what the independent UK travel industry thinks, plans and does. Offering holidays to just about any country in the world, with as broad a mix of vacation activities as you can imagine, my fellow industry colleagues are battle-hardened independent travel experts who have frankly had to deal with many a game-changer over the years.
The belief was that even though Brexit will surely further impact our financial markets, taxation, legislation, security and politics in the short and long term, the British people will still regard holidays as an essential in life. Whatever adjustments need to be made, the independent UK holiday industry will make them in order to adapt to their consumers’ needs. Whether local, long haul, luxury or low-cost, the average AITO member prides itself on offering a broad, relevant, flexible and above all good value product list. Brexit will not change this.
So while immediate concerns on employment rights, currency predictions and overall holiday costs are very real, my feeling is that Brexit will be adjusted to and dealt with in time. Difficulties caused by Brexit are after all joining a rather long queue of contemporary challenges, such as terrorism, war, climate change, poor politics, corruption, over-capacity and environmental concerns. Not to mention acts of God and ever-increasing globalisation.
Closer to home, dips in consumer confidence and spending power must be faced. The British people’s default mode is to travel, holiday and explore, and the travel industry is used to evaluating, explaining and re-jigging itself in response to a swathe of potentially business-busting curve balls. As ever, client safety remains top of the list (ref. Ebola, earthquakes, ash clouds, tsunamis, religious extremists, environment disasters and human rights issues).
As my fellow AITO colleagues debated how best to evaluate and react to a new Brexit environment, the feeling soon turned more upbeat. Economic advice centred on dusting down the 2008 crisis file. Positives emerging from currency fluctuation included the potential to sell more UK tour-operator holidays to clients from north America and Asia. Equally, it was felt that employee status concerns and overall market changes would be addressed as they came along.
Whatever challenges red tape, market forces or client confidence present, we at Nomadic Thoughts, like so many of our independent travel colleagues, will continue our very own specialisation: offering darn good holidays to suit our clients’ individual needs, aspirations and budgets.