The political volatility that has surrounded the Brexit process for many months continues to create significant challenges for travel businesses as we enter 2019. We are missing much-needed certainty on what the future arrangements are with the EU on a range of matters, including posting workers abroad
and VAT arrangements.
From a consumer point of view, despite some alarmist media headlines, there have been some helpful reassurances in recent months from the European Commission (EC) and the UK government about people’s ability to travel, even in a no-deal scenario. The EC has said that UK airlines will be able to operate flights from the UK to the EU. So, point-to-point arrangements will still stand. They have also confirmed that UK visitors will not need a visa to travel to EU countries. These developments satisfy two of the most important issues for travellers, and ABTA has been running a social media advertising campaign and working with national and local media to get this message across. We have also published information for travellers on our website at abta.com/Brexit so that people have a “one-stop shop” for common queries.
The Brexit process is still ongoing and the postponed vote in the House of Commons on the Withdrawal Agreement is now expected to take place in mid January. In the meantime, ABTA is encouraging its members to continue with their contingency planning to ensure that, whatever the outcome, they are as prepared as they can be. We have a 25-page guidance document for members that we are updating as the situation evolves, covering everything from consumer rights to contractual arrangements to help businesses prepare.
From a cruise perspective, it highlights that the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and international law govern the majority of maritime operations, which should minimise disruption in many situations for members operating cruises and river cruises across Europe and beyond after Brexit. However, there are some EU laws that are potentially of relevance depending on business models, so we encourage members to use the ABTA guidance to understand the implications of a no-deal scenario
on their businesses and customers.
Brexit aside, environmental issues are expected to be firmly on the agenda for 2019. New legislation on carbon will come into force this year. From April 2019, large businesses will be required to publish their carbon emissions and the steps they are taking to reduce them.
Responsible tourism is also becoming a significant consideration for consumers planning a holiday, and the same can be said for more travel companies as well. For quite some time the industry has been working across a range of sustainability issues, from waste management (including plastics) to carbon, as well as taking action to support the local economy and local workers. The impact on the communities they visit is becoming a mainstream consideration for travel companies and an integral part of business decisions and planning.
We are also seeing cruise companies strengthening their commitment to travel agents in recognition of their critical role in selling cruises – agents work closely with a customer to find the cruise that best fits their requirements. Furthermore, ABTA research shows that one of the main reasons holidaymakers book with a travel professional is because they feel more confident (45 per cent), suggesting the trusted travel expert has a bright future.
Overall, cruises continue to be a popular holiday choice, according to ABTA research, with one in 12 UK holidaymakers having been on one in the past 12 months, and many more looking to take their first trip. Two-fifths of people are interested in going on a cruise for the first time and as the range of cruise destinations across the globe expands, there is now greater choice than ever before.