Tourism leaders in the UK are becoming increasingly worried that French and German visitors are avoiding the country due to post-Brexit travel restrictions. Since the end of anti-Covid measures across Europe, tourism has started to recover, but there are growing signs that significant numbers of French and Germans are staying away from the UK.
Since October 2021, EU citizens have needed a passport to enter the UK, whereas previously they could use ID cards. This has created additional costs and bureaucracy, which has been a deterrent to travel, particularly for school groups. School groups are particularly affected because if one or two children in a class of 30 do not have passports, teachers will elect to travel to other English-speaking countries such as Ireland or Malta instead.
According to research by the Tourism Alliance last year, there had been an 83% drop in schoolchildren and students visiting the UK, leading to a loss of £875m and 14,500 jobs. Businesses are also concerned about plans to introduce electronic travel authorisation (ETA) from October, which will require even tourists who do not require a visa to pay for a digital permit.
While tourism from the US has been recovering, the number of French and German visitors to the UK has declined. The number of passenger vehicles transported by Le Shuttle through the Channel Tunnel in the first two months of 2023 dropped to 251,175, compared with 314,497 in 2019. Brittany Ferries also reported a decline in arrivals, with 155,000 arrivals in 2022 compared with 338,000 in 2019.
Brexit has also battered the perception of the UK as a welcoming nation for tourists. According to data from Visit Britain and the Anholt Ipsos Nation Brand Index, there has been a decline in how French and German people view the UK’s standing compared with other countries. Germans ranked the UK as the 7th best place to visit in 2016, but by 2022, the UK had fallen to 16th. The same was true for French people, who ranked the UK 9th in 2016 and 14th in 2022.
Tourism leaders in the UK have expressed concern over the decline in visitors from France and Germany and are looking for ways to address the situation. The government of Jersey has announced a pilot project allowing French citizens to show their ID cards on day trips to the island, and the British Educational Travel Association (Beta) is urging the UK government to clarify plans for school trips. Additionally, businesses are calling for reasonable pricing for the upcoming electronic travel authorisation system to ensure that it does not further deter tourists from visiting the UK.