Millions of British holidaymakers could boycott Europe next summer over huge visa costs if the UK crashes out of the EU without a Brexit deal.
A no-agreement scenario may mean that tourists heading for the traditional hotspots such as Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy are forced to cough up €60 (£52.60) per adult and €35 (£30.70) per child aged 6-12 for a Schengen entry permit, which allows 90-day access to European destinations.
The freedom-of-movement Schengen Area covers most EU countries, plus non-EU Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein. The UK and Ireland opted out.
Research for global exhibition World Travel Market London – which attracts 50,000 industry professionals, government ministers and international media and which starts at the ExCel Centre in Docklands on Monday – revealed that 58% of UK holidaymakers would consider an alternative destination outside the EU if they were forced to fork out.
Newspaper reports last summer said the EU could decide to class the UK along with the likes of Russia and China by charging tourists for Schengen visas after Brexit.
Even if the UK is granted an exemption from the visa requirement, there could still be a fee of £7 per person for entry permits under a separate EU plan that will come into force in 2020.
Also, the study revealed that four in 10 Brits believe Brexit will have an impact on their holiday plans in 2019, with a third worried about holidaying in Europe because of the UK’s departure from the EU.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) says Brits took a record 46.5 million overseas holidays in 2017 – and three-quarters of those are estimated to be in EU nations.
However, WTM says that as doubts about EU favourites increase, the popularity of non-EU destinations is on the rise – especially Turkey and Tunisia, which is back on sale after terrorist attacks in 2015.
A WTM spokesman said: “While the trade is drawing up contingency plans to cope with any eventuality, British consumers seem to be increasingly apprehensive about flights, visas and currency costs in traditional destinations such as Spain, France and Italy.
“Conversely, this could mean there’s a silver lining for non-Schengen countries because British tourists know for certain what the travel requirements will be and can book in advance with more confidence than they can with most of Europe.”
However, a spokeswoman for the UK’s travel association Abta said their research shows that ”while there has been a slight increase in concerns and confusion about what Brexit means for holidays, Europe is the number one destination people plan to visit next year”.
Abta estimates some 60% of us are planning to head to the continent in 2019 and industry figures show bookings for summer holidays in Europe are up 15% year on year.
She added: “Throughout the Brexit process we’ve been highlighting the importance of being able to travel to EU countries without a visa – and the Government recognised this by including visa-free travel in its Brexit White Paper.
”The UK Government and the EU have said they want to agree a deal, there is still time to do this and we encourage both sides to take a pragmatic approach to getting a deal done.”
Comment by Nigel Thompson , travel editor:
Brits love their holidays – come what may.
But an extra €190 for a family of four going to EU destinations after Brexit will be too much for many.
Sure, travel isn’t the most crucial part of securing an exit deal, but hard-working UK families deserve an annual sunshine break. So politicians shouldn’t make it harder for them.
Perhaps it’s a very good time to be a hotel owner in Turkey or Tunisia.