- Whatever your personal views on whether the UK might be better as part of the EU or outside it, there’s no denying that, whatever the deal that is eventually struck, the UK leaving the EU is going to have a huge impact on our industry.
The latest UK Government advice for businesses about how to prepare for a no-deal Brexit has, in this tranche at least, some information specifically about travel and hospitality.
Assurance is given that, despite uncertainty about longer-term effects, in the short-term UK-EU flights, bus routes and airport security could remain largely the same; at least, once the government has finalised lots of smaller mutual agreements with the EU to ensure continuity.
When it comes to flights, if the UK leaves the EU with no deal, British airlines would no longer be part of the agreement under which any airline licensed by any EU or European Economic Area country can operate any route within that area. In theory, therefore, flights between the UK and the EU could be grounded, forcing individual airlines to negotiate permissions – with a presumed accompanying effect on costs.
However, the government is clear that it intends to grant permission to all EU airlines to operate as they do now, with the expectation of the EU reciprocating.
And agreements with 17 non-EU regions which currently come as part of EU Membership would also need to be renegotiated for Britain, such as the transatlantic EU-US Open Skies deal.
When it comes to UK borders, there were rumblings last week also about EU citizens being treated like any other global traveller after a no-deal Brexit. But the UK Government again stated that agreement would surely be reached on this, since UK aviation safety standards already comply with, and actually exceed, the EU minimum, therefore no additional security restrictions would be required if there is no deal. Although there is one caveat: passengers and luggage travelling from the UK and making an airline transfer at an EU airport would have to be rescreened.
And flights are not the only form of transport affected. The UK would also have to reapply to be part of the “Interbus Agreement” to continue passenger transport in seven non-EU eastern European countries, which previously came with EU Membership.
What this tranche of advice doesn’t address is that, assuming visitors have managed to get to the UK on a flight that is allowed to land and they have negotiated Security, their hospitality experience will be inevitably be affected by the shortage of EU citizens working across the industry.
The Migration Advisory Committee’s last report called to end the cap on the number of high-skilled migrants entering the UK, but was unconvinced there was a need for a route-to-work for lower-skilled workers from the EU to fill jobs in industries such as catering and hospitality.
In response, UKInbound pointed out that the UK tourism industry is heavily reliant on generally low-skilled migrant workers, while last year contributing £24.5 billion for the economy in international guests.
When we add to this the effect on driving licences, with UK citizens needing International Driving Permits to accompany their UK licence to drive or hire a car, passports – after Brexit, British passport holders will become “third country nationals” and could face longer queues at customs, passport control and security – and mobile roaming fees, it remains clear that, whatever the outcome of the negotiations, Brexit is going to change the landscape for the hospitality industry forever.
We, as representatives of the fast-growing and forward-looking serviced apartment sector, look to remind the UK Government that we offer so much to the hospitality industry, and we must continue to be able to grow. Our Members offer across the UK & Ireland more than 22,000 serviced apartments and the UK industry is set for record growth with 2,000 new units set to open by end of this year. The sector expects an increase in supply of around 17% by 2020, and our members sell 3 million accommodation nights/year.
Globally the sector is on track to increase by 145,000 units by the end of 2018, with a 52% increase in stock.
With a reported £1bn turnover in the UK alone, the serviced apartment sector is ready to face Brexit, and we are confident that our Members and their guests will continue to enjoy the high level of customer service and guest experience they have enjoyed until now – so, then – onwards and into the future!