What Brexit means for South Africans wanting to travel to the UK

JUNE 28, 2016

Last week’s decision by Britain to leave the European Union, or “Brexit”, has been met with shockwaves around the world. But what does it mean for South Africans wanting to travel, and how will it effect the industry locally?

Flight search and travel deals platform cheapflights.co.za has provided some insight into what South Africans can expect to see over the next few months.

THE UK BECOMES A BETTER VALUE TRAVEL OPTION

In the immediate aftermath of the Brexit announcement, the falling value of the pound has meant that the UK has suddenly become a better value destination for South Africans.

Andrew Shelton, Managing Director of cheapflights.co.za said: “Last Friday’s EU Referendum result may have sparked a Brexit Boom for UK inbound tourism, as travellers around the world adjust to the fact that the UK has suddenly become much better value for money as the pound struggles. In the few days since Brits voted to Brexit, flight searches for travel into the UK have shot up from most countries.”

TRAVELLERS DECIDE TO ‘SIT AND WAIT’ AS THE DUST SETTLES

With the rand continuing to show losses as a result of a volatile market caused by the Brexit vote, however, South Africans are holding tight on making big travel decisions for the meantime.

“Despite the devalued pound making the UK a better travel option for South Africans, we have actually seen a slight decrease (3%) in flight searches from South Africans since the vote last week, suggesting that travellers are holding tight until the dust settles. This may be due to the general sense of uncertainty now, or have a more direct correlation to violent currency fluctuations,” explained Shelton.

This trend is mirrored in the UK, which will likely effect the South Africa tourism industry too.

“The UK is by far the leading market for tourism into South Africa, so any changes to UK holidaymakers’ behaviour will have a knock-on effect in South Africa too,” said Shelton.

“In the UK, the release of pent up holiday demand many expected to happen over the past weekend didn’t materialise, with holidaymakers in the main choosing to ‘sit and wait’ before they book.  Londoners in particular seem most downcast, with searches for flights out of the capital actually declining year on year”

FLIGHT PRICES WILL INCREASE IN THE SHORT TERM

Several factors are likely to contribute to higher airfares. Low-cost carriers within the European Union – such as Ryanair and Easyjet -  have warned that jet fuel prices, linked to the dollar, may increase as the carriers lose their ability to operate freely within the open European aviation market. In the short term, the volatile pound is also effecting airfares.

“We’ve seen a 7% increase in airfare prices from South Africa into the UK since the referendum result was announced on Friday, and this is likely to continue until there is some stability in both the UK and South African economies. For now, we can expect prices to rise, so we would suggest that if travellers see a good deal, they grab it quickly as it may not be around for long,” said Shelton.

NO CHANGE IN VISAS

Until negotiations between the European Union and the UK on the relationship moving forward are completed – which is likely to only be in 2018 – there are no changes to current visa laws. South African should continue to factor in visa applications and costs for travel to UK and within the European Union for the time being.

“It’s a mixed message for the travel industry at the moment, and travellers in general. There are undoubtedly still some great deals to be found on flights, but while the weakening pound is good news for South Africans travelling to the UK, a widespread sense of uncertainty is giving holidaymakers worldwide a pause for thought before they book,” finished Shelton.