EVERYONE loves a travel round-up.
Here’s one that’s slightly different.
Brexit may mean a lot of things but to the average person how it affects travel in Europe will probably be the main practical consideration. As we hurtle deal-less forwards…
20 best: Reasons why hard Brexit and travel don’t mix
Best for bureaucracy
1) If Theresa May – our mad disco dancing, kitten heel wearing leader – does not get a deal, as seems increasingly likely, reps working overseas will have to be registered with each country’s national security system. This will be time-consuming, bureaucratic and add to tour operator costs. At the moment an 18-month waiver on such registrations applies so operators rotate staff to avoid paperwork. Nobody wants to hang around for hours in smoky local government offices in Athens or Rome filling endless forms. This is what might lie ahead. “Nobody can give us an answer about what will happen,” says a leading travel industry figure, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of upsetting authorities here or abroad. “The scale of the ineptitude is staggering: people are playing games with other people’s lives.”
Best for bad staff
2) Should such registration be required, reps jobs will become less flexible and less appealing. Part of the attraction of the work is the opportunity to see many countries. It will become increasingly difficult to recruit well-qualified, well-motivated staff (as if that’s not tough enough as things stand). All travel companies will have to face up to this – and all travellers on package holidays will have to get used to even sulkier Sues and even moodier Marks at not-so-welcome meetings.
Best for expensive flights
3) Nobody is sure about “over-flying rights”. What, for example, will be the charges for planes from Britain flying over France? There is confusion about this and the result is that British tour operators are worried about chartering planes beyond March 29, 2019. Yes, they may now be taking bookings but what will the “over-flying” costs eventually be? Operators face a situation in which they may have to charter planes “blind”, without knowing the taxes they may face. Flight prices may go up.
Best for mayhem
4) If these problems continue closer to the busy summer holiday period next year, with operators unable to give airports guarantees that planes have been chartered, they may lose crucial airport flight slots.
Best for cancellations
5) Were this to happen holidays would have to be cancelled.
Best for businesses going bust
6) Cancelled holidays mean businesses going under. “That would be it for us,” says the managing director of a major firm, who again requested anonymity. “The travel industry is very vulnerable. It’s on an enormous scale and no one knows how it will play out. Nobody wants to talk openly about it right now as it could affect consumer confidence.”
Best for pricey insurance
7) What about reciprocal health arrangements? Currently all holders of a European Health Insurance Card have health cover in EU countries. Will insurers hike up travel insurance prices? This seems likely.
Best for even more bureaucracy
8) At the moment a system is in place by which operators pay VAT on goods and services bought overseas within the UK. When Britain leaves the EU there is a possibility that holiday companies will have to register for VAT in each country. Again, as with point number one, this will be wastefully time-consuming. “We’ll have to register with 27 countries,” says the owner of a specialist travel firm, yet again requesting anonymity. “In some countries I expect that officials will make it difficult for us. They will take the opportunity to jump on Great Britain and to squeeze something out of us. We have ratted on them and are traitors and will be treated as such.”
Best for border delays
9) Should immigration checks be introduced, border crossings could become extremely lengthy. “If we leave the EU and border checks happen, research shows that 50 per cent of people are going to think twice about going abroad,” says the leading industry figure. This research was conducted by a UK rental accommodation company, Sykes Holiday Cottages. The specialist tour operator adds: “I fear there are a sufficient number of countries that will kick Britain in the teeth: long immigration checks just for the hell of it.”
Best for new mobile phone charges
10) What about mobile phone roaming charges? Will travellers lose free roaming in the EU? Will we be able to handle enforced digital detoxes on the Continent?
Best for confusion about pets
11) Will travelling with pets become more difficult?
Best for visa fees
12) Already, there has been talk of the introduction of a £52 visa to enter the Schengen zone of the EU. Could this really happen? A draft proposal making this suggestion was presented to MEPs by the European Commission in June. Britain could be placed on a visa-required list. A visa to visit the Schengen zone for 90 days for citizens of countries currently on this list is £52.
Best for costly holidays
13) Then there is the belief that departure from the EU might cause the pound to weaken even further making trips abroad yet more expensive. This would also push up the price of package holidays as tour operators’ costs would rise. The pound’s value has already, of course, slipped significantly against the euro. The rate now is about 1.14 euros to the pound whereas in January 2000 sterling was worth 1.65 euros.
Best for staying in the UK
14) Current high fuel prices are already pushing up airline fares. With sterling losing value, holidays in the EU may simply cost too much.
Best for hotel staff shortages in Britain
15) Hotels and tour operators in the UK hire a lot of EU workers. It is estimated that as many as half a million people work in low-skilled jobs such as housekeeping and waiting tables. If measures to create a minimum salary threshold are indeed introduced, as Theresa May has suggested, who is going to clean rooms in Britain’s Holiday Inns and Travelodges and so on? Who is going to man phones for holiday bookings? “There will be an immediate halt to recruitment from the EU,’ says the specialist operator.
Best for Basil Fawlty service
16) Service at British hotels is already deemed poor by some British operators. “Our head of operations is constantly having to apologise to guests about awful service,” says the director of a company selling UK breaks. “Where will hotels get staff in the future? People are afraid to speak out about this in case Brexiteers launch a torrent of abuse. This is fear mongering. We are at an extraordinary point in history.”
Best for pricier rooms
17) Hotels will have to start training British staff – not just the top hotels, which do this already, all of them. This will increase overheads and the price of rooms could shoot up, says the author of a leading hotel guide.
Best for protection rackets
18) Some are concerned that overseas local guide associations will begin to operate like “protection rackets”. Just as British ski instructors were banned in some French ski resorts by the Ecole du Ski Francais, local associations could spring up across the Continent. “It could be that we will have to pay for guides even though they are silent – just following us around,” says the specialist operator. “It will be an absurdity. But I can see it happening.”
Best for ferry port disruption
19) Chaos at the ferry ports? The European Tourism Association (ETOA) predicts big trouble ahead: extra passport checks during which travellers are requested to explain the purpose and length of their trips will take an extra 90 seconds per person, it estimates. UK ferry ports handle about 20,000 outbound passengers a day. In theory, the wait could be 500 hours by the end of the first day, says ETOA. Which sounds rather a lot.
All the best!
20) Happy holidays everyone! Wish you were here?
Picture: The Bridge of Sighs in Venice – expensive to visit now, even before Brexit. Perhaps troubles ahead will at least help with the city’s “overtourism”