Published On: Sun, Sep 10th, 2017

CIE Tours Prepares for Brexit

PHOTO: Brexit is creating a touchy situation for British Isles-based CIE Tours). (photo via Flickr/Bankenverband)

While negotiators for the U.K. and the European Union wrangle over seemingly unresolvable issues and nearly impossible logistical problems of dismantling the U.K.-E.U. relationship, tour operators are keeping an eye on the changes that will be brought about on the ground by a British exit from the European Union.

For the British Isles, Brexit will draw the border between Britain and the E.U. right through the island of Ireland: 

Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K. will leave the E.U.

The Republic of Ireland will remain part of the E.U.

Elizabeth Crabill, chief executive officer of C.I.E. Tours, told TravelPulse that her company—known to be the largest buyer of leisure travel services on the ground in Ireland—is preparing now for whatever changes Brexit could bring about. Much of it is just speculation at this point, but certain points are firm if Brexit proceeds to its logical conclusion.

While the travel industry has basked in the luxury of open borders, open skies and the common currency of the European Union, much of that will be ended and dismantled with Brexit. It will not only affect Britain but also points to a major restructuring and realignment of world economics and politics, and will have a major effect on travel.

While lovers of travel may hold onto the hope that the whole Brexit misadventure will be dropped when it is shown to be virtually impossible or so disruptive as to just not be worth it, companies operating tours on the ground have no such luxury.

CIE Tours has been in business for 85 years. Some of its employees worked for the company before the border separating Ireland from Northern Ireland and Britain was opened.

The company has navigated through enormous changes during its 85-year history and will proceed business-as-usual with Brexit. Working out logistical problems that inhibit the movement of people from place to place is the heart of the skill set developed over decades by professional tour operators.

“Clearly, Brexit is going to have a variety of impacts on these countries,” said Crabill. “There are two or three things that we are watching.”

Number one is: “What happens to border between Ireland and Northern Ireland? It’s an open question. It is still unclear. Will we have a reinstatement of a hard border? The island of Ireland has enjoyed 20 years without a problematic border. We’re just waiting to see if it is something that will affect tourism.”  

The second concern, which is likely to have an even greater impact on tourism overall, is the status of open skies agreements.

“With Britain leaving the European Union, they will have to renegotiate open skies agreements,” said Crabill. “It will affect fares, depending on how the country negotiates it. With the Open Skies agreements now, we have all these wonderful airlines to work with. It will change, but we don’t yet know how.”

The third consideration that will, directly and indirectly, affect American travelers is currency. Britain did not adopt the Euro, so that will not change.

READ MORE: Six Great Irish Beers That Aren’t Guinness

The passing of the referendum in favor of Britain leaving the E.U. caused a major plunge in the value of the pound. At the moment it’s handy for inbound tourists because it makes prices on the ground lower. How this will proceed in the future is hard to gauge. It will depend on the unpredictable interaction among many separate trends taking place on parallel tracks.

“With the devaluation of the British pound, more of the British people are staying in the country, so there is less traveling to Ireland. That will it affect rates in future,” said Crabill.

CIE will keep a close watch on the trends and will take into consideration the various advantages and disadvantages that come about as things change.

“CIE tours has been around 85 years,” said Crabill. “Many on staff have been with the company since before Britain joined the European Union, so we are well-equipped to deal with these kinds of changes.

“But these are interesting times.”



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