‘Disastrous’ for UK businesses dependent on student travel

A travel industry leader has described the impact of Brexit’s move to ban European arrivals from using ID cards as “catastrophic”.

Joss Croft, Managing Director of UKinbound, had his say The Independent after the latest data from VisitBritain showed that 5.87 million overseas visitors arrived in the first four months of 2022 – barely half the 11.53 million arrivals in 2019.

He said: “This data reminds us of the devastating impact of the pandemic on the UK inbound tourism industry, but also alludes to why our members only expect business to return to 50 per cent of levels in the second half of this year of the pandemic will return.

“An additional hurdle our members are facing this year is the impact of Brexit, such as the abolition of ID cards, which has had a disastrous impact on the international student travel industry.

“EU school groups are choosing to travel to alternative English-speaking destinations such as Ireland, where they can still use their ID cards for entry, rather than the UK at a cost of millions of pounds to regional economies across the UK, which is usually the case would you accommodate these students.”

Around 300 million EU citizens who have an ID card but no passport have been excluded from the UK since October 2021.

Citizens of the EU, the wider European Economic Area and Switzerland can use their national ID cards to travel to dozens of countries in Europe – including all non-EU European countries except the UK.

In addition, citizens of many EU countries including France, Germany, Italy and Portugal can use ID cards to visit Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey.

When the ID ban went into effect, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “By ending the use of insecure ID, we are strengthening our border and meeting people’s priority of taking back control of our immigration system.”

According to the Interior Ministry, almost half of all forged documents discovered at the border in 2021 were EU, EEA or Swiss identity cards.

Since August 2021, all new ID cards issued by EU countries must meet the highest security standards mandated by the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization, which requires them to be machine-readable and contain a microchip with the holder’s details.

But the Ministry of the Interior says: “Although a new security standard for ID cards is being introduced across the EU, cards that do not meet these standards will still be in circulation for the next five to ten years.”

Commenting on the latest inbound tourism figures, VisitBritain said: “We are forecasting a gradual recovery throughout 2022.

“By the end of 2022, we forecast visits to have recovered to around two-thirds of pre-Covid levels, although recent flight booking numbers suggest the result could be before that.”

But UKinbound’s Joss Croft said: “Rising prices and hiring problems are threatening the recovery of the UK’s second largest services export industry, inbound tourism, and it is therefore imperative that the Government listens to and works with the industry to implement workable solutions that will doing so will ultimately help the UK’s economic recovery.”

Sterling’s fall in value against the euro – some 15 per cent down since the EU referendum – makes the UK more financially attractive to overseas visitors.