21 MAY 2019: Tourism to Britain continues to be unaffected by Brexit, at least when it comes to long-haul visitations – including Canada – says the country’s tourist board.

“We’ve been tracking country sentiment every six months since Brexit; obviously the main focus has been European destinations, but we’ve included in there America and China and what we see from the longer- haul markets is really strong growth and no impact of Brexit,” says VisitBritain director of communications and strategy, Patricia Yates.

Overall, visitations from long-haul destinations dipped a marginal two percent in 2018, according to VisitBritain, but that follows double digit growth in both 2016 and ’17. And for 2019, flight data from the Americas is already “tracking well.”

As for Canada, this country posted two percent growth in 2018 (Q1-3) and visitations are projected to increase by six percent to nearly 900,000 in 2019, Yates told Travel Industry Today at the recent ExploreGB travel trade show in Harrogate, Yorkshire. Similarly, she said, the Chinese market is growing at a 15 percent clip, while the US is experiencing “really strong growth.”

“Who knows if we would have seen stronger growth without the impact of Brexit, but we’re not seeing an impact in sentiment, or in actual bookings, with long-haul markets,” says Yates.

Britain’s European neighbours are another story, with the region that provides two-thirds of all visitations to the UK presenting a more “challenging” situation as potential visitors harbour uncertainties over practical matters, such as whether they will require passports or visitor cards to enter the country. Thomas Cook, for example, last week reported a $2.26 billion half-year loss, which it blamed on Brexit.

At the same time a four percent overall decline in visitations 2018 attributed to the ongoing “aura of uncertainty,” has prompted VisitBritain to conduct a “welcome” campaign on the continent, with the sentiment being a key “driver of holiday visits,” according to Yates.

Such uncertainty over logistics is a factor for North Americans, Yates acknowledges, but adds that Britain is actively endeavouring to “make it easier for Canadians [to visit].” For example, she points to a just-launched program that will allows Canadians (and other select nationalities) with digital passports to be able to use e-gates at British customs “so they don’t have to stand in those queues that they do at the moment at border.”

It’s all part of a process of facilitating “visitors coming through and looking at our borders to make it easy for people to carry on coming here.”

So far, so good. Collectively, VisitBritain is forecasting three percent growth in visitations in 2019, with the latest stats showing an increase of six percent in January.

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Michael Baginski

Editor, Mike Baginski is well known and well respected within the industry across Canada, the US, in the Caribbean, Mexico and numerous other destinations outside North America.

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