Online holiday queries to Britain from Europe spike after Brexit vote

Chinese tourists standing near Big Ben in London on June 29.
Chinese tourists standing near Big Ben in London on June 29.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - Online queries for European holiday flights to Britain soared after its voters chose to abandon the EU, travel web sites reported, offering a glimmer of hope for tourism in the country.

People across Europe apparently rushed to find bargain trips after the June 23 referendum on leaving the European Union, which tipped sterling into a sharp slide against the euro and an even steeper fall against the dollar.

Searches for flights from France to Britain surged 130 per cent from a day earlier on June 24, when the results were announced, according to data provided by holiday booking site Kayak, which says it handles some 1.5 billion travel searches a year.

Kayak said it enjoyed a similar spike in searches for flights to Britain from Europe between June 24 and 25 with increases of 86 per cent from Germany, 102 per cent from Spain and 114 per cent from Finland.

Rival Paris-based holiday booking site liligo.com, which claims four million unique online visitors a month, said web interest in Paris-London flights rose 34 per cent from June 23 to 26.

"It is too early to say for sure but the first trends we have seen and the devaluation of the British currency suggest that interest in the UK as a destination will be maintained in the weeks ahead, especially for European passengers interested in 'city breaks' to London to go shopping," liligo.com said in a statement sent to AFP.

Booking site MisterFly told AFP it had experienced a 60-per cent increase in actual flight reservations from France to Britain since the Brexit vote.

The slide in value of the pound may hit bookings by British tourists, however, said the French travel industry umbrella group Les Entreprises du Voyage.

"It is absolutely double-edged: Britain will attract more French people but it is bad news for the French economy as fewer British tourists will come to France because it will be a more expensive destination," said the group's president, Jean-Pierre Mas.

Although four million French people take short holidays in Britain every year, there are 12 million Britons who do the same in France, according to French online travel site Easyvoyage chairman Jean-Pierre Nadir.

Brexit risks hurting tourism in areas favoured by British holidaymakers such as the west of France, and especially Normandy, he told AFP.

British searches for European holidays on Kayak surged 24 per cent on June 24 compared to the previous day, the web site said.

France topped the list of flight destinations being queried that day, Kayak said.

But by the next day France had dropped out of the top 10 to be replaced by the Netherlands, up 161 per cent, Czech Republic, up 146 per cent, and Sweden, up 140 per cent, it said.