The UK tourism industry, one of the country’s biggest single industries, took a huge hit in the year leading up to Brexit, according to new research. The sharp drop-off — along with uncertainty following the vote — impacted luxury hoteliers, wildlife parks, and Britain’s biggest attraction, Buckingham Palace.
In 2016, revenues at Crown Estates — the subsidiary company owned by the Queen that runs Buckingham Palace and 200 acres of nearby parkland — took a 15 percent hit. The company also commissioned a study last year estimating that holiday bookings for London fell by almost 17 percent, a significantly bigger drop than for other British cities.
Wannabe visitors were put off by the price of these days: The British pound’s fall to nearly $1.20 per U.S. dollar from $1.50 was a double blow, the company argued.
The UK tourism industry employs 2.1 million workers and generates £22 billion a year in revenue, as well as being responsible for 36 percent of UK exports. Since last year’s referendum, data from the British Hotels Association shows the number of hotel room nights across the country has shrunk by 9 percent. The trade association warned last month that, unless some aspect of “our single biggest industry is protected from the impact of Brexit, future economic growth and job creation in this country would seriously be jeopardized.”
Luxury holiday-makers and rail passengers, too, were reacting to the reduction in the value of the pound, which the EU offers for free travel. In January, numbers for 2018 at British train companies plummeted by 12 percent, according to the Association of Train Operating Companies.
Business-class ticket prices in London and its outer suburbs, at the time, were up to 30 percent above at equivalent cities, the British Express magazine reported. A one-way transatlantic flight also saw prices increase by 8 percent. The only exception was to the appeal of the 2017 royal wedding, where at least some companies — Continental Travel Group, for example — dropped prices.
Prince William, president of VisitBritain, the UK’s main tourist promotion agency, acknowledged “the turbulence in the global economy” but insisted that tourism was “going to flourish,” particularly in Queen Elizabeth’s home city. He said tourism in the US is rebounding.
“The year ahead will present new opportunities for us to leverage our assets,” he said in a statement.