Brexit is finally upon us, as England formally withdrew from the European Union as of midnight, Jan. 31, in Great Britain.
The country is becoming independent again, even going back to the pound instead of the euro, as it breaks away from the EU. The official move comes more than three years after a June 2016 vote in which more than 17 million British citizens voted on the referendum. Some 52% voted to leave the EU compared to the 48% who wanted to stay.
England now goes into what is known as an 11-month ‘transition period’ or ‘implementation period.’ Britain will continue to follow all of the EU’s rules and its trading relationship will remain the same until it hammers out trade agreements with the 27 nations still in the EU.
Much will change for residents of the United Kingdom.
And much will change for travelers to England, although not as drastically during the transition period. Travel between the UK and the rest of Europe remains exactly as it us until Dec. 31, 2020.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is, if England and the EU can’t come to its agreements at the end of the transition period this year, it could be a nightmare for travelers. Tourists might have to use different lines at airports and cruise terminals to gain entrance to the country.
If you plan on visiting England but using a ferry or the Channel Tunnel to drive a car into mainland Europe, you could need an International Driving Permit as well as a special ‘green card’ from your insurance agent.
Also, check your cell phone provider.
“Mobile roaming charges are likely to re-appear in Europe, so we’d advise travelers to check carefully with their providers, to avoid the potential for large unexpected bills,” James Lynn from Currensea, a travel payment card provider, told CNN.
Back to the good news – the dollar is much stronger than the pound, and that will benefit travelers from the U.S. to Britain.
“In the short term, we expect to see a continued recovery of the pound, but predict continued exchange rate volatility until the final withdrawal agreement is in place,” Lynn said. “Going into 2021, we see far greater uncertainty about the pound at this stage. A compromised withdrawal deal could lead to a far weaker pound, leading to a strong focus on cheaper destinations for holidaymakers as a result.”
A weak pound does mean that inbound tourism to the UK from outside the EU could be boosted. Visit Britain forecasts that spending by inbound tourists will have grown by 9.1% in 2020, to £25 billion ($32 billion), with inbound visits topping 38 million.
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Travel Industry Lauds Passage of Paycheck Protection Program Reform Bill
The U.S. Senate passed the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Flexibility Act on Wednesday, sending it to President Donald Trump’s desk for final approval.
The reform bill provides business owners with additional flexibility and more time to utilize loan money and still be forgiven under the PPP established to provide economic relief in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The travel industry has been quick to commend lawmakers. The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) is in full support having advocated for the improvements behind the scenes.
“We commend the Senate for passing the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (H.R. 7010), which would change PPP loan terms—in some cases retroactively—in a number of ways ASTA has advocated for, including five-year loan terms, reducing the requirement that 75 percent of the loan must go to payroll to get forgiveness, allowing forgivable expense over 24 weeks (as opposed to the current eight) and allowing companies to restore headcount without jeopardizing forgiveness by the end of the year (versus the current June 30),” Eben Peck, EVP Advocacy, ASTA, said in a statement.
“While the PPP will remain complex, this bill gives more flexibility to PPP recipients and increases the chances that loans can be fully forgiven,” Peck concluded.
The U.S. Travel Association also wasted no time praising the decision, calling it an “important step.”
“The PPP changes passed by both chambers are another important step in providing relief to small businesses that otherwise will not survive until the economic recovery phase,” added U.S. Travel’s Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes. “The modification to the portion of funds that can be used for non-payroll expenses is especially crucial to travel-related small businesses, which have comparatively high capital overhead but virtually zero incoming revenue because of the necessary measures in place to stem the spread of the pandemic.”
U.S. Travel still believes that there’s more work to be done to ensure a successful recovery. The organization is encouraging officials to extend PPP eligibility to non-profit and quasi-governmental entities responsible for driving local and regional economic development.
“Like the businesses they serve, the finances of these non-profits have been devastated by the standstill in travel and tourism, and the moment of recovery will be moot unless they can keep their lights on to take advantage of the return in travel demand,” Barnes stated. “We urge leaders to move urgently to enact the next phase of coronavirus response legislation, which is absolutely vital to the future of the travel and tourism industry, and to prioritize expanding eligibility to those most hard hit by this pandemic such as destination marketing organizations.”
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