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Simon Calder, who is also recognized as The Man Who Pays His Way, has been a contributor for The Independent, focusing on travel, since 1994. In his regular column, he delves into important topics in the travel industry and how they may impact you.
International tourism is a valuable economic and social asset. Bringing in foreign visitors brings in revenue and improved resources, making it a beneficial opportunity for any country.
In addition to providing employment opportunities and contributing to VAT revenues, international arrivals also support local businesses such as restaurants and theaters, which in turn benefit the native population. The opportunity for locals to interact with individuals from other countries also provides cultural enrichment.
The decision by the UK to prohibit over 200 million potential tourists left the global tourism industry in disbelief.
In October of 2021, Priti Patel, who was the home secretary at the time, fulfilled her commitment to “discontinue the use of unreliable ID cards for individuals entering our nation.”
She stated that they are enhancing their border security and fulfilling the public’s main concern of regaining authority over their immigration system.
It was not important that all newly issued ID cards from EU countries adhere to the strictest global security standards and are highly resistant to counterfeiting or alteration.
Potential travelers from the European Union and other countries within the Schengen area were informed that they would be unable to enter without a passport. As there are over 200 million individuals who do not possess passports, they may only visit approximately 30 countries with their national identity cards. This led to many of them avoiding travel to the UK.
According to VisitBritain, the decrease of 8% in arrivals this year compared to 2019 can be attributed to the UK’s decision to close its borders. In contrast, Ireland has seen a 3% increase in arrivals compared to pre-Covid levels.
The ridiculousness of the recent regulation was proven when the Channel Island of Jersey secretly negotiated for an exception. The island adheres to UK immigration policies and as a result, suffered from a decline in French day-tripper visitors. However, they are now permitted to enter using identification cards.
Ms Patel emphasized the need to crack down on individuals who attempt to illegally enter our country with counterfeit documents. However, it seems that the decision to relax the regulations in Jersey has been deemed successful, as the exemption has been extended for another year.
The ban on national identity cards in the UK has had a significant impact on businesses that cater to school groups. The Institute of Tourist Guiding has reported a drastic decrease in school group bookings from Europe for summer 2022 compared to the time before Brexit and Covid-19 in 2019, with a staggering 99% drop.
The recipients of this benefit are language schools located in EU countries where English is the primary language, such as Ireland and Malta.
According to Patricia Yates, CEO of VisitBritain, she stated to members of parliament last year that locations such as Hastings have been greatly affected by a decrease in school trips.
The Home Office minister stated in October 2022 that they have no intentions of altering their stance on minors traveling with organized groups.
One year is a significant period in the realm of post-Brexit politics. The policy that was deemed most futile and harmful, intended to mock foreign countries, is now going to be rolled back even more.
The Home Office representative stated that in March, the British prime minister and French president Emmanuel Macron discussed simplifying the travel process for school groups visiting the UK. This will involve revising the documentation requirements for organized trips from France. The necessary measures are currently being implemented to facilitate these arrangements, including legal modifications.
According to Joss Croft, the CEO of UKInbound, the tourism industry has been advocating for this policy adjustment and they are appreciative that the government has taken heed of their requests.
The current question is: How long will the government continue to hinder the performance of the inbound tourism industry?