There are five of them and they are baffled: When we were planning this session we thought we would know by December what was happening with Brexit and would be able to offer good advice”, said the CEO of Autoura, Alexander Bainbridge. “But now we are totally confused and nobody knows what to expect.” But the panelists at today’s eTravel World Session all agree that this situation cannot go on. So there is nothing else they can do but accept it with typical British humour.
Other compliance and data protection regulations
One thing is certain: As soon as the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, different compliance and data protection regulations will apply to all digital data and online presences. “We are no longer allowed to store and use data from EU citizens under the same terms on servers in the UK”, explained the legal expert Peter Hense from Spirit Legal. Many companies have already relocated their computer centres and the relevant personnel to other markets. But what happens if the website of a travel company selling to EU citizens fails to meet compliance requirements? “They will have to leave the net, from one day to the next. Financial penalties can also be expected. And it could take months before they are back online”, Hense suspects. Nobody will find it easy to cope with this situation.
And what about border controls?
“In theory all British citizens entering the EU would have to join the line for travellers from third countries, state how long they intend to stay and the purpose of their visit, and present their passports”, according to Tom Jenkins ETOA. “Even if this routine process only takes 90 seconds, it is impossible to imagine how they can all be processed. Absolutely no one is in a position to make the necessary resources available.”
“The problem is that we are not preparing for two different scenarios. There are so many possible developments that 90 % of all the companies affected are simply not making the necessary preparations”, says Kevin O’Sullivan, open destination, and this will have fatal consequences. In the event of no deal there would not even be a transitional phase.
How will the travel market develop under such conditions?
As is so often the case, the tourism industry demonstrates that it is crisis-proof. “Figures for UK outbound bookings already surpass the record set in 2018”, said someone from the audience. “Two thirds of our inbound tourism comes from the EU – and these flights will continue to arrive”, said Anthony Pickles, Visit Britain. Current developments on the employment market are much more challenging: “There are already over 5,000 vacancies in tourism because the job holders have relocated”, according to Pickles. “We have no idea how we are going to find people to fill the 200,000 vacancies in the lowest paid hotel and catering sector.” The fact is that Brexit is already taking place.