Brexit and tourism: potentially good for the UK, bad for the U.S.

Florida’s tourism expert sitting in on a University of South Florida webinar on Wednesday wasn’t as concerned about losing travelers from the United Kingdom as he was concerned about losing domestic travelers.

“One of my big concerns is domestic tourism,” Jerry Parrish, chief economist and director of research for Florida Chamber Foundation, said during the webinar. “We have 91.2 million visitors from other states out of the 105 million that we count. My concern is a lot of those higher spending people from New York and Chicago will now look at the weaker pound as an opportunity. It will probably cost Florida a good bit of tax revenue.”

On the other side of the same coin, fewer British travelers may opt for trips from the U.K. to the U.S. because the pound has lost value, making U.S. travel, including plane tickets, more expensive. But Parrish is assured British seasonal travelers, many of who own property in Florida, will keep coming. It’s what Parrish calls “guaranteed tourism.”

Local tourism officials are monitoring what Brexit could mean for British travel to the Bradenton area, but the executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau isn’t concerned.

“Obviously, we're monitoring the U.K. vote and we would not expect to see much of a drop off from that market the rest of this calendar year because most of the British who have secured holidays through tour operators are contracted,” said Elliott Falcione said. “If anything we’ll see a moderate drop off.”

“The clientele we target in that market is not weathered in economic fluctuation,” Falcione added.

Dimitrios Buhalis, head of the Department of Tourism and Hospitality, director of the eTourism Lab and deputy director of the International Centre for Tourism and Hospitality Research at Bournemouth University in England, said he and many others he knew didn’t think the government would really vote for Brexit. The decision hasn’t been set in stone yet and the U.K. could reap some unforeseen benefits in the meantime.

“We may see an increase in the incoming market and stay-cations,” Buhalis said. “Now the U.K. will be much cheaper than it has been for a long time. We expect people will come into the U.K. and travel around and spend good money because it will be cheaper. It's interesting because of all this publicity the U.K. is getting it's effectively operating as advertising for U.K.”

Parrish did note that the U.K. is second to Canada in Florida’s tourism market and it’s likely fewer U.K. people will travel anywhere because of financial uncertainty.

“The volatility in financial markets affects tourism because people will wait and not spend money,” Parrish said.

But ultimately, all of what was discussed in Wednesday’s webinar were mere predictions.

“All of this detail, nobody knows the answer to,” said the webinar’s third panelist, Kevin Kaley, vice chair of the U.K.’s Tourism Society. “It’s difficult to look at what future might look at at the moment.”

Janelle O’Dea: 941-745-7095, @jayohday