Published on Thursday, February 16, 2017

Industry CEOs voice Brexit fears


Concerns raised by inbound travel companies over Brexit will be relayed to the Government, a senior representative at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport has promised.

Giles Smith, DCMS deputy director, heritage, tourism and cultural diplomacy, promised issues worrying key operators would be raised in Parliament and would be fed back directly into the Brexit negotiations.

Smith was speaking at a round table meeting of senior chief executives organised by UK Inbound and moderated by TravelMole managing director Graham McKenzie.

Despite the fact the fall in the pound meant the UK provides more value-for-money for overseas visitors, inbound bosses at the round table do have concerns over Brexit.

Labour issues tops the worry list with most operators declaring that a large percentage of their existing work force are immigrants from the EC and these individuals are concerned about their long term status. Some have already returned home. This worrying trend only adds to the shortage of skilled labour in hospitality, language, technology and customer service. This single factor was seen as a the largest threat for most companies as they strive to expand to meet the extra demand forecast over the next 10 years.


Terry Williamson (left), CEO of JAC Travel, said "Almost 70% of our staff are from overseas and many of them are feeling very uneasy without a strong statement from the government as to their status and their ability to work within the UK."

The UK's image overseas was also questioned, with many worried that we would be seen as insular and unwelcoming. Carol Dray of Visit Britain was aware of this and offered reassurance when she said: "Our messaging is getting quicker and more effective when we empathise not only our welcome but also our value as a destination not just our price."

This was backed up by Stephanie Cheng of China Holidays who gave a bullish outlook, stating that, as far as the Chinese are concerned, the UK now appeared 'more independent, back on the world map, safe and offered excellent value for money'.

The inevitable question of transport infrastructure was raised and all around the table it was agreed that swift and comprehensive action was required to settle air, road and rail questions.

While regional airports expansion was welcomed as a short-term measure, the lack of air capacity in the London region was the most pressing problem. Rob Russell (left) of AC Tours explained that 'no matter what anybody says, overseas visitors want to come to London first and foremost and as a result we need more capacity at either Gatwick or Heathrow but soon'.

Promising the DCMS would relay concerns to the Government, Giles Smith said:  "This is an opportunity for the industry to get some policy changes and to move tourism up the political agenda."

"Tourism is ripe for exploitation and adds to the Prime Minister's ability to spread economic growth around the regions."

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