As Brexit negotiations get underway, the travel industry has set out a five-point list of priorities it wants the UK government to follow.
Visa-free travel and the EHIC card are just two of the benefits enjoyed by UK holidaymakers that travel association ABTA has said Brexit ministers must protect during formal negotiations with the European Union.
In its report Making a Success of Brexit for Travel and Tourism, ABTA calls on the Government to focus on five central points during the talks:
- Maintain our ability to travel freely within Europe and beyond
- Keep visa-free travel between the UK and the EU
- Protect valuable consumer rights
- Give UK businesses operational stability
- Seize opportunities for growth
ABTA points out that UK residents made 37 million holiday and business trips to the EU in 2015, with 16 million EU residents visiting the UK. The outbound travel industry alone contributes £28.3 billion a year to the UK economy.
Membership of the EU has given travellers rights and benefits such as visa-free travel and access to free or reduced cost healthcare via the European Health Insurance Card, which was used over 215,000 times in 2015 by UK citizens.
Compensation for delayed and cancelled flights and the EU Package Travel Directive, which protects people on package holidays, are also valuable consumer rights, which ABTA urges the Government to protect.
It adds that safeguarding transport links is another concern, particularly as there are no World Trade Organisation rules for aviation to fall back on.
The association says that maintaining links will be mutually beneficial as UK travellers spend £19 billion a year on business and holiday visits to the EU, with Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Greece the main recipients.
ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer added: “Travel and tourism is one of the UK’s largest industries and it is vital that the Government makes sure it can continue to thrive during and after the negotiations.”
With some holidays on sale up to 18 months in advance, ABTA also wants the Government to ensure that effective transitional agreements with the EU are in place if needed.