Brexit on the agenda at ABTA Travel Convention

With the October 31 Brexit deadline approaching, the issues surrounding the UK leaving the EU were discussed at the ABTA Travel Convention in Tokyo.

At the launch of the Holiday Habits survey, it was reported that there has been a slight drop in the number of people concerned about the impact of Brexit when booking a holiday. The 2018 survey found that 54% of British holidaymakers were concerned about Brexit while this year's survey put the figure at 51%.

Victoria Bacon, ABTA's director of brand and business development, described the small drop as "unremarkable" although attitudes vary in different parts of the UK.

As each Brexit deadline has approached, there has been a drop in holiday bookings and while this is happening again with the latest milestone looming, it can then lead to more availability after the deadline as passed, as happened in June this year after the March 31 deadline passed.

In his opening address to the conference, Mark Tanzer, ABTA’s chief executive, said that since the 2016 referendum, ABTA has remained "studiously neutral" on Brexit despite the emergence of extreme viewpoints where people think leaving the EU will either lead to "a brave new world [or] a post-industrial wasteland".

"We need to find a way back to the middle ground because that's where consumer confidence lies," Tanzer told delegates.

However, he added a caveat to ABTA's Brexit neutrality, saying that the association is a vocal opponent of a no-deal Brexit because it would be "expensive and damaging to consumer confidence".

After Brexit, Tanzer said the travel industry will have to "return to a new normal" and build confidence in the industry so consumers have the confidence to book holidays.

Peter Foster, Europe editor for the Daily Telegraph, said that "if Brexit happens", a 3% drop in GDP is to be expected and, even with the next deadline weeks away, he said that it is still uncertain as to what the future UK-EU relationship will look like. He added that the negotiations have moved on from Theresa May's "high-alignment Brexit" to the type of Brexit being pushed under Boris Johnson's premiership in which a frictionless trade relationship with the EU is no longer the goal and a Brexit involving tariffs, border checks and restrictions on selling into Europe is possible.

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