Brexit could be a tourism win for Britain

St Ives, a popular seaside resort in south-west England, could see a tourist boom as a weak pound prompts more Britons to opt for a holiday at home instead of going abroad.
St Ives, a popular seaside resort in south-west England, could see a tourist boom as a weak pound prompts more Britons to opt for a holiday at home instead of going abroad.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MARGATE (England) • A call for tighter borders marked by Britain's decision to leave the European Union (EU) in June could be a win for the tourism industry in the United Kingdom.

With the British pound at a three-decade low against the US dollar, the euro and Asian currencies, hotel rooms in London have nearly become affordable for tourists who are flocking from America and other parts of Europe.

Britons themselves, who traditionally travel abroad during the summer months, may be their own best customers. It is too soon to know for sure, but tourism officials say British travellers may be bidding adios to Majorca and saying hello to Blackpool.

The possible uptick for British tourism is another in a long row of dominoes to fall in the post-Brexit world, where no one really knows what will come next.

If Britons stay put for the summer, they are likely to return to resorts such as Margate, often derided in the British press as a seaside slum. The Guardian once wondered if "Margate may be the saddest of all" Britain's seaside towns, while The Telegraph called it "Poverty-by-the-Sea".

"We've been ridiculed over the years, so it would be satisfying to see more visitors," said Mr Trevor Lamb, who rents affordable bouncy castles for kiddie parties in Margate. He voted out of the EU in June.

Modern seaside vacations in resort towns were essentially a British invention, and were thriving before cheap international travel and packages lured vacationers to southern Spain and the Greek isles.

The English seaside towns withered and became what British social scientists called "dumping grounds" for the poor and welfare-dependent.

Mr Lamb was among those who hoped the travellers would come back, although he admitted it seemed too good to be true.

The Tourism Alliance, a trade association, had predicted that the British pound's post-Brexit slump might depress outbound travel but could encourage a kind of "Staycation 2", a repeat of the last domestic boom that followed on the heels of the global financial meltdown of 2008, when a mass of British holidaymakers decided to forgo trips abroad and vacation at home.

British tourism officials reported a spike in online searches for flights and hotel bookings in England, Wales and Scotland after the Brexit vote.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2016, with the headline 'Brexit could be a tourism win for Britain'. Print Edition | Subscribe