**In 2009 Lou Hammond Group founded the PR World Network and is comprised of 22 world class agencies in over 50 countries. Enjoy this fabulous guest post by Rebecca Thomas from The Dovetail Agency in London.**

The world has been awash with the term ‘Brexit’ ever since the referendum of June 2016 voted in favour of British withdrawal from the European Union. We are treading new ground and the final outcome cannot easily be predicted. What can be foretold however is that there will be opportunities as well as risks and the Brexit negotiations will be of vital importance to the UK luxury travel industry. This will, in turn, have a knock-on effect for the global travel sector.

At present, the British luxury industry is worth £32.2 billion to the UK economy, far outpacing growth of the UK economy over the past decade. How to protect this value in the face of growing uncertainty is on the lips of many, including Walpole, an alliance of 200 of the UK’s finest luxury brands which strives to support and promote British luxury worldwide. Members include hotels, yacht and private jet companies and specialist travel companies.

There is no doubt that luxury brands play a strategic role in driving the UK’s reputation, as a desirable city destination. With this in mind, short-term benefits of the vote have been felt. The UK has long been recognised as a luxury shopping destination and with the falling value of the British Pound, there has been an influx of international visitors, particularly from Asia, keen to spend on luxury items. This has had a positive impact on hotel occupancy, primarily in London, and on the popularity of other tourist attractions. London is still regarded as one of the world’s cities when it comes to opportunity for luxury market growth. An infrastructure of luxury includes at least 94 five-star hotels, 60+ Michelin-starred restaurants and 45 private members club. The city is a stronghold for the sector and has the heritage and expertise in place to continue to thrive.

A current point of concern is the potential impact on the European workforce here in the UK. From finance and the arts to hospitality, we benefit greatly from their knowledge, expertise and experience. The incredible creativity and diverse cultural inspiration found on an international scale is crucial to global innovation. In the case of hospitality, including many five-star hotels, between 50-60% of their workforce is from the EU. Losing these employees could be of detriment to the industry, potentially resulting in a lack of experienced applicants.

As we move ahead, promoting the UK to international visitors will be paramount, particularly during the period of uncertain change. This requires simplifying the visa application process, particularly 10-year visas for Chinese nationals and finalising airport expansion. This is important to avoid the image of a ‘closed’ nation. International visitors who come to the UK will naturally spend money in other sectors as well as boosting tourism. Remaining ‘open’ to the world, both for outbound and inbound travellers will be crucial to maintaining the importance of the UK in the luxury travel sector.

We should also consider the wider global impact for the luxury travel industry with the value of the UK traveller. According to research by ABTA, 76 percent of UK holidays abroad are to the EU. In the short to medium term, the cost of these holidays has increased thanks to fluctuations in the value of the Pound. There is optimism however within the financial sector that this will re-balance in time. This combined with a lean towards the promise of visa-free travel to the EU will also ensure that British travellers continue to move abroad widely.

Surprisingly in the wake of Brexit, there has actually been a boost in travel to Europe by British visitors. Research by travel company Kayak in late 2017 noted that British demand for travel to some of the top fifty European destinations has increased by up to 51 percent. Interestingly, when looking at these top 50 destinations, flight prices have fallen by 12 percent. These statistics in partnership have supported that fact British travellers have continued to flock overseas and are likely to continue to do so. The return of duty-free shopping will likely boost EU travel, with Eurotunnel predicting it to be an incredible boost to their business.

Key destinations where the British traveller has always been a primary market, such as Dubai, will continue to benefit from the UK. Brexit has seen the rise in interest to destinations further afield, where the Pound stretches further in the short-term. A recent article in the Daily Telegraph reported that Islamabad, Colombo and Manila have become more popular for British flight bookings to discover new cultures. As travel trends lean towards the transformational and the experiential, the subsequent spend per head by the British traveller increases, reflecting the level of expertise and access offered in the planning by specialist operators on the ground globally.

All anyone can share at the moment for long-term impact is speculation and prediction. It is too early to define the hard-facts and truth of the ‘Brexit effect’. While a sense of optimism is to be retained, the short and long-term realities will undoubtedly offer far-reaching implications globally. Encouraging travel and hospitality brands to uphold levels of customer service will remain paramount to success in this changing world. Embracing social and environmental concerns and retaining trust with the consumer will support the luxury travel sector through this politically challenging period for all nations.


Rebecca Thomas, Account Director at the Dovetail Agency