Europe beware! Half of Brits are less likely to holiday in Europe after the UK leaves the EU

Almost GBP45 billion was spent abroad by tourists from the United Kingdom in 2017, much of that was within the European Union. But will that change when the UK departs Europe in March next year? Well, a new study suggests European holiday locations popular with British tourists should brace themselves for impact, after it emerged that almost half of respondents (49%) said they are less likely to holiday in Europe after Brexit.


  • Almost half respondents in a new poll of British travellers say they are less likely to holiday in Europe after the United  Kingdom leaves the European Union in 2019;
  • The poll by Sykes Holiday Cottages found concerns that a further fall in the value of the pound would drive up prices overseas was the main driver;
  • Almost GBP45 billion was spent abroad by tourists from the United Kingdom in 2017 and much of that was across nations within the European Union;
  • There is expected to be a growth in UK staycations, a market that grew to 59 million people in 2017, according to figures from VisitBritain.

Whether it is purely ongoing Brexit uncertainty, reports of increased costs to travel into Europe, or purely increased national pride, but the poll of 1,000 Brits by Sykes Holiday Cottages, the UK’s leading and fastest-growing independent holiday cottage provider, highlights a notable increase in interest in staycations.

Defined as a holiday spent in one’s home country rather than abroad or a period in which an individual or family stays home and participates in leisure activities within driving distance of their home and does not require overnight accommodations, staycations achieved particular popularity in the UK in the late 2000s as a weak pound made overseas holidays significantly more expensive.

And it is that financial concern than it is a driver in these latest survey findings with nearly two thirds (65%) of respondents worried that a further fall in the value of the pound would drive up prices overseas. More than half (60%) said they were concerned about not having free, emergency healthcare while abroad, while expensive mobile phone roaming charges, problems with visas and flight cancellations were also areas of worry. Additionally, four in ten of those polled also feared travel chaos on the roads around the channel, and more than 14 million pet owners are worried about difficulties with pet passports (27%).

“There is uncertainty amongst British holidaymakers who aren’t sure how far their spending money will stretch or what will happen with health cover, so we’re expecting many to stay closer to home,” says Graham Donoghue, CEO of Sykes Holiday Cottages. The company expects to see an almost 30% uplift in bookings to its 12,000 holiday homes across the UK this year and a further uplift in 2019 post Brexit.

CHART –  Brits are firm believers in the staycation, but who exactly are staycationers and what are they looking for?Source: Sykes Holiday Cottages Staycation Index 2018 

European nations made up nine of the ten largest outbound markets for UK travellers in 2017, with the United States of America (USA), ranked fifth, the only exception. Spain was the most visited country with around 15.9 million trips by UK residents, almost double the level recorded in second placed France and almost four times the level seen in third placed Italy. The Republic of Ireland was ranked fourth, Germany sixth, while Portugal, Poland, the Netherlands, Greece and Belgium made up the rest of the top ten.

Official data from The Office for National Statistics, the executive office of the UK Statistics Authority, shows that the average UK resident was abroad for a total of 10.2 nights in 2017, spending GBP616 while there. In total, 72.8 million trips were taken, amounting to GBP44.8 billion spent abroad by tourists from the UK. That was an +3% increase from 2016, or two million more visits. The number of trips has been steadily increasing for years, up almost a third (+29%) since 2012, although the average number of nights spent abroad, on the other hand, has remained relatively unchanged, just above ten nights.

While Brexit may help boost the UK tourism industry, staycations were already increasing in popularity. According to figures from VisitBritain, there were 59 million staycations in the UK last year, up by almost +6% on 2016. This was worth an estimated GBP23.7 billion – up +3% on 2016. The Staycation Index 2018 from Sykes Holiday Cottages highlights Devon and Cornwall in the South West of England as the most popular regions for domestic holidays, but new towns and resorts are quickly rising up the ranks and closing the gap.

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