In a chilling sign of the Brexit fallout, British tourism is already in freefall, as visitors from across the European Union flee. After the EU Brexit referendum took place last June, hotel bookings to the United Kingdom dropped 2.7 percent, compared to the previous year, according to data from Travelzoo. Visitor spending also plummeted 15 percent, while U.K. hotels lost 745,000 overnight visitors from July to September.
The gloomy picture isn’t restricted to the country. In Ireland, tourism from EU members was down a whopping 34 percent in November. And in France, the number of foreign tourists plummeted by half. In the rest of Europe, arrivals have declined by 12 percent, with nearly 15 million fewer visitors to Britain in the first nine months of last year compared to a year ago. Not helping matters is that London’s nightlife has been the subject of frenzied media scrutiny, with headlines that are more likely to summon up images of armed cops than glamorous clubbers. Meanwhile, thousands of Europeans have opted to holiday in Spain and other sunnier destinations.
The big question, of course, is whether these blows will further erode the U.K.’s international reputation and deter new visitors. Already, tourist arrivals to Britain declined from mid-October to mid-December, and the fall has continued into January. Meanwhile, the No. 1 U.K. destination for Britons after France is Barcelona, according to travel experts. Unlike London, Spain offers a more diverse number of sights and experiences. So far, however, Spain has done little to capitalize on its unexpected pick-up in popularity.
Those looking for some support might want to look to Austria. Like many other eurozone countries, it relies on its international travel industry to survive. The country’s government has committed to doubling its efforts to attract visitors, with a significantly increased marketing budget. With Austria recovering after years of economic uncertainty, it appears the move might be bearing fruit. In December, tourists traveled there by an average 6.5 percent higher rate than the previous year.