Major political events tend to have a direct correlation, and a big impact, on travel plans and patterns. In a previous column, I've looked at the impact of Trump's presidency on UK students' interest in traveling to the U.S. Today, we look at an issue closer to home - what does the triggering of Article 50 mean to UK students and their interest in travelling around the EU?
Although no changes will be seen until March, 2019 when final negotiations wrap up, this could impact a number of issues that touch travel. From passport/visa requirements for UK passport holders to travel to/within the EU, to the future of free data roaming across Europe, to UK passport holders using non-EU citizen lines when clearing customs; the effects of Brexit have the potential to impact many touchpoints of the travel experience.
Before we take a look at Article 50, let's take a step back to where it all began -- Brexit.
After the Brexit vote (which confirmed the UK's plans to leave the European Union), the value of the Pound dropped to a 31 year low. This made Britain an even more attractive destination to travellers from countries that are not as economically impacted by the decision to leave the EU. For example, travellers from the United States. The US Dollar is at it's strongest position against the Pound for years and similar trends are emerging in other markets. The pound is expected to recover after initial uncertainty is resolved, but in the short-term, Britain is certainly a more commercially viable place to visit.
The day after the Brexit vote, we saw searches for student flights from the U.S. to the U.K double YoY. Additionally, more young people are opting to take gap year travel in the face of Brexit uncertainty and hikes in tuition fees. There was a 29% year-on-year rise in travel searches following a recent UCAS announcement that applications to UK universities fell by 5% to a total of 469,490.
So, Brexit may have triggered interest in travel to the UK, and Trump's presidency may have made UK students less interested in travelling to the US, but what does the triggering of Article 50 (which confirmed the proverbial divorce between the UK and the EU) mean for how UK students' travel patterns around the EU might change? We polled our student travellers to find out.
To give a sense for how frequently the respondents travel:
82% of travellers we polled had upcoming travel plans within the EU
67% travel to/within the EU 1-2 times per year, 19% 3-5 times each year, 3% 6-8 times each year and 3% more than 8 times each year
Here are the key findings from the survey:
For 81% of respondents, their interest in travelling within Europe has not decreased since Article 50 confirmed the UK's plans to leave the EU.
Since Article 50 was triggered, the biggest concerns about the future of travel within Europe were:
43% - changes to passport/visa requirements to travel to/within the EU
31% - limited opportunities to study and work in Europe
18% - increased airfares
8% - a cut in funding to the Erasmus Exchange Program
Students were pretty evenly split when it came to the question of whether additional steps being required of UK citizens to travel to/within the EU (online application, photo/fingerprinting as part of an entry/exit system) would impact their plans to travel there.
45% of respondents said that this would not impact their interest in travel to/within the EU
43% of respondents said that they would be slightly less interested in travel to/within the EU as a result
Only 6% of respondents cited that they would be much less interested in travel to/within the EU as a result
Withdrawal negotiations will be taking place into 2018 which will make things a lot more clear in terms of the exact implications of what will come when the UK ceases to be a member of the EU and is no longer subject to its treaties. We hope that some of the concerns that students are having about travel implications post-withdrawal will be alleviated in the next year. In the meantime, StudentUniverse will do everything we can to keep you informed of the latest developments and make it as easy as possible for UK students to travel worldwide.