We were warned during the referendum run-up that Brexit could be a disaster for tourism. Much of the Project Fear medicine focused on what it might mean for British tourists heading overseas; the answer could be largely summarised as all doom and gloom. Abta, for instance, warned that ‘a Brexit could…affect the flow of trade and travel’. In short, the message was clear: Brexit was bad news for the travel industry. But what we heard less about was how the referendum might affect the numbers actually heading to Britain. Now, a month on from the June 23rd vote, we have the answer: British tourism is booming.
In July, bookings for flights landing in the UK went up by more than seven per cent compared to the month before the referendum. What’s more, when you compare the number of tourists arranging holidays to visit the UK this year compared to the same time in 2015, the figures are 4.3 per cent up. The drop in sterling has undoubtedly helped encourage more tourists to visit Britain, with more pounds for your Yen, Yuan or Euro an extra incentive to come to the UK.
But these figures suggest more than just a short-term blip attributable to a favourable exchange rate. Take longer-term bookings, for example, and you see that in September and October, the numbers heading to the UK are up by 3.3 per cent and 5.3 per cent each (compared to the same months in 2015). By then, sterling is likely to have settled considerably, suggesting this boom is not only about more bang for foreign tourists' bucks.
For an industry which has sometimes struggled over recent years, these figures are worth celebrating. It’s also interesting to point out that this tourist boom is not isolated to any particular country, which might make it more of an aberration. In reality, it’s much more global than that; those from EU countries are booking five per cent more holidays to the UK in the aftermath of the referendum than during the run-up, according to the figures released by ForwardKeys. Whilst for tourists from outside Europe, the figures are up by an impressive 8.7 per cent. Not for the first time, Project Fear appears to have been predictably overhyped.