British tourists: An important economic driver for the EU

British tourists spend five out of six of their foreign holidays in EU countries. Almost one in four holidaymakers in Spain and Portugal is from the United Kingdom source market. They’re an important economic driver at the destinations. Brexit is causing a great deal of uncertainty in those countries, especially since it jeopardises the continuity and reliable forward planning that are absolutely essential to flight operations.

Tourism’s major significance for the EU economy

Tourism is the third-largest sector of the EU economy after the trade and construction industries. Including the effects of tourism-related sectors, the travel industry accounts for ten percent of gross domestic product and twelve percent of employment. British tourists make an important contribution to that, accounting for more than one-fifth of foreign overnight stays in the EU. The countries in the southern part of the EU profit most from the EUR 58 billion that British holidaymakers spend every year. Investments in tourism in those countries create job opportunities, bring down the rate of youth unemployment and drive growth.

Brexit could well put a damper on those positive effects of tourism. Without a post-Brexit arrangement on air transport in the EU major flight connections could be affected with negative impacts, above all, on British tourists and their accommodation providers in the EU. According to a study, a reduction in air traffic due to Brexit could depress the EU’s gross domestic product by up to EUR 210 billion, with the United Kingdom facing GDP shrinkage of 3.1 percent and the remaining EU (EU27) facing shrinkage of 0.8 percent. The ensuing decline in trade, investments and tourism could affect up to 1.3 million jobs in the UK and as many as 1.8 million jobs in the EU27.

Safeguarding mobility

The negotiation partners have to obtain clarification on a number of unresolved issues as quickly as possible in order to safeguard European flight operations and citizen mobility. The following issues are central to future air traffic between the United Kingdom and EU27:

  • Traffic rights. Air carriers operating in the single market have unrestricted route and traffic rights throughout the EU. An arrangement that will apply to the United Kingdom after Brexit has to be negotiated before Brexit happens. The UK’s participation in the internal aviation market is in the interest of the negotiation partners, the travel companies and their customers.
  • Aviation safety. High standards guaranteeing aviation safety apply in the EU. The United Kingdom contributes its vast expertise in the European Aviation Safety Agency. This should be allowed to continue after Brexit in an appropriate form such as the bilateral recognition of standards and certifications.
  • Planning reliability and legal security. Flight plans are often scheduled more than a year in advance in the tourism industry. We therefore have to urge the negotiation partners to reach the necessary agreements in good time to ensure planning reliability and legal security.