British tourism suffered its steepest fall since the 2008 financial crisis in 2018 as events like Brexit pushed tourists away from the country.
Experts say this year’s decline in visitors was especially painful for the country’s hotels, resorts and attractions as it is one of the most popular tourist destinations. Tourists continue to plunk down cash on trips to London or overseas in general. So to fully understand the current down trend, it’s important to grasp a few long-term factors.
The first reason tourists have fled is what industry experts and Brexit strategists say: A hard Brexit could hit demand from tourists living outside the European Union.
During the EU referendum, President Trump said he would be happy for Britain to leave because of the economic impact on other European countries. European visitors account for about half of all trips to London, according to EY, a professional services firm.
Many British people don’t want to live under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Once Britain leaves the EU, the country could have more power to prioritize how laws are interpreted and implemented. That could affect who can enter the country and make life more difficult for some tourists.
“In the period following the referendum vote, the level of cross-border tourists from other EU countries was in sharp decline,” reads an outline of the tourism industry’s “worst case scenario.” There was an increase of 4.4 percent from 2016 to 2017, the estimate said, but visits dropped by 8.3 percent last year.
There’s a second reason officials believe Brexit will affect tourism, thanks to a shift in the tourism industry’s own customer demographics.
Instead of simply families visiting the country, more and more tourists are traveling for the opportunity to do more than one thing. Typically, with the UK population of 65 million people, there was only one vacation per year per person. Now, there are a dozen. That’s how many journeys it took for the average Briton to visit 26 other countries in 2018, up from 16 in 2016.
That means fewer visitors to the country — and thus, fewer cash in their pockets.