What does Brexit mean for SA travellers?

07 July 2016 - 02:00 By ANDREW UNSWORTH

Andrew Unsworth explores the repercussions of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union — and how it will affect travel for South Africans

It will be some time before we know exactly how the UK’s narrow vote to leave the European Union will affect South Africans travelling to Europe, and the UK itself.

Right now, it makes little change, and it will stay that way for at least two years while the Brexit is negotiated. 

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South Africans who travel on British or European passports do not need visas to go to either, and until the UK actually leaves Europe that will remain the case.

At present South Africans travelling on this country’s passport need to get a visa to enter Britain, and another to enter the EU Schengen zone, or both if they are going on an extended visit that crosses the Channel. That rather expensive arrangement is likely to remain the same both before and after Brexit, so no change there.

As the rand strengthened against the pound sterling in the days after Brexit, that was and is good news for travellers going to the UK as it was almost prohibitively expensive. For now, your pint of bitter will cost just a little less.

If Brexit harms wider inbound tourism to the UK, we may just be able to hope that the UK re-looks at visa requirements for other countries —  and perhaps even restores South Africans’ right to travel there without one, as members of the Commonwealth (Namibians can!)

We lost that right due to concerns about the integrity of SA passports, with South Africa undertaking to tighten up on that front. That ball is still in our court.

The change in the UK’s status in Europe could also harm tourism into this country. The Tourism Business Council of South Africa says it’s too early to say what the effect  will be, but that  it will in all probability affect travel between the two countries.

block_quotes_start We do want to send a very positive message of welcome and to say that Britain is open for business

TBCSA’s chief executive officer, Mmatšatši Ramawela, said the council expects the pound’s decreased buying power to influence British travellers’ decisions to hold onto their money and reduce their travel, particularly to long-haul destinations like South Africa.

The CEO of the Airlines Association of Southern Africa, Chris Zweigenthal, also said that  many UK travellers are likely to pull back on international travel.

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The chief executive of the UK’s tourism body, VisitBritain, Sally Balcombe,  has issued a plea for unity and hard work following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

Over half  of the UK’s visitors are from EU states, accounting for millions of pounds in spending every year.

“Whether we are in the European Union or out, Britain will continue to offer a warm welcome to all our international visitors, ” Balcombe told the Telegraph in London.

If the pound weakens against the euro or the US dollar, it will encourage all foreign visitors.

“Britain is tremendous value at the moment,” Balcombe added. “We do want to send a very positive message of welcome and to say that Britain is open for business.”

Airlines operating out of the UK will be concerned that the UK remains part of the single EU aviation market, and the  EU Common Aviation Area. This would enable EU airlines to fly freely within the UK and between the UK and EU, allow UK airlines to fly freely across Europe, and would ensure that consumers continue to benefit from low fares.

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