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Op-Ed: Brexit Brief

by Clara Burr-Lonnon

Design by Deanna Klima-Rajchel

Brexit: an abbreviation for "British exit," referring to the June 23, 2016, referendum in Britain.

If you haven’t heard by now, British citizens voted to exit the European Union on Thursday, June 23.

There were two campaigns—the Remain campaign led by former Prime Minister David Cameron, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, and the Leave campaign led by UKIP (UK Independence Party) leader Nigel Farage, and former Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

However, I’m not writing this article to tell you about all of the facts and figures. You can read about all of those online. I’m here to tell you about what it was like living in the epicentre of all of the madness and how Brexit has affected the travel industry since the British made the vote of the century.

The summer started to warm up in Britain, and so did the campaigning for Brexit. As May rolled into June, the campaigns were in full swing. You couldn’t step foot anywhere in Britain without seeing or hearing about the Brexit vote. Pubs, coffee shops, restaurants, the London Underground, everywhere you went everyone was talking about Brexit. Flyers were being sent through the door daily from Remain and Leave and hundreds of campaigners were scattered around the streets of London handing out stickers, t-shirts and bags laden with their messages. British newspaper headlines for the entire month of June were consumed by campaign promises, occasional scandals and of course, polls (which changed sides each day as to who was in the lead).

June 23 finally arrived. The majority of Londoners were convinced that Britain would decide remain in the European Union. In my governmental summer internship, my work colleagues all said they weren’t even going to stay up and watch the polls because they were convinced Remain would win by a sweeping majority.

However, it didn’t quite play out like that. As the the 23 turned into the wee hours of the 24, the Leave campaign had a strong lead and by breakfast time, it was announced that Britain had voted to leave the European Union with a majority vote of 52 percent for Leave and 48 percent for Remain. The nation woke up divided, with London, Scotland and Northern Ireland strongly voting Remain, and England and Wales voting to Leave.

So enough of the background information. What does this mean for the travel industry?

Currently, the exchange rate of the pound is at a 30-year low compared to the dollar, making Britain an especially attractive destination for travellers from the U.S. The New York Times reported that Expedia, British Airways and Airbnb have seen surges of interest in both searches and sales for travel to Britain since the Brexit vote.

According to the The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) the future of tourism in Britain is looking bright. It predicts that tourism in Britain will grow by 3.6 percent over the course of the year, compared to previous predicted figures of 3.1 percent. Additionally, Britain’s new Prime Minister, Theresa May (she became Prime Minister after David Cameron resigned when Remain lost the referendum), has pumped £40 million into the tourism industry for new projects across the nation.

However, despite the good news for the majority of the world, who can take advantage of the exchange rates, there is a downside to the travel industry post-Brexit for British citizens still residing in the area. The weakened pound means that travel is much more expensive for Britons outside of Britain, causing the average cost of any holidays booked post-Brexit vote to skyrocket.

It is vital to remember that the UK remains a part of the EU until it triggers Article 50. Until that occurs, and presently, the timing remains uncertain, travel between the UK and the rest of the EU will stay as is and travellers will enjoy free movement in the Schengen Area.

So, for now, we have to sit tight and wait for more updates…and for Article 50 to be invoked.

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