It’s official. With Article 50 invoked, Britain is finally leaving the EU in what may very well turn out to be a long and complicated divorce.
Since the referendum vote on June 23rd, not a day’s gone by without Brexit appearing on our screens or in our newspapers. So the possibility of it popping up at February’s Business Travel Show was highly likely in the least, given the implications it has for freedom of movement. And feature it did, in a conference session called ‘Brexit - what does it mean for your travel programme? In what proved to be an unusually positive discussion, led by Caroline Strachan, Managing Partner for Festive Road, panel members took it in turns to debate the topic.
For Rohitesh Dhawan, Director of the Brexit Global Centre of Excellence at KPMG, Brexit has put us all on a level playing field by exercising democracy and opening up debate around certain inconvenient truths about the EU. For all the hype about businesses relocating their operations out of the UK, he sincerely doubts that London will lose its place as a key economic centre. If anything, our leaving the EU has paved the way for greater trading with places like Singapore and the U.S., he added.
For serviced apartment agent, SilverDoor, that’s certainly the case. Contrary to a lot of the scaremongering, we’ve continued to grow as a business, and have expanded internationally. Between September and December last year we took on seven new members of staff across our London and Lancaster offices and had ten vacancies open - many of which we’ve since filled.
Capitalising on growth in the Asia-pacific, we opened a Singapore office and appointed both a Head Account Manager and Partner Account Manager. Work is currently underway to recruit a Client Account Support there as well.
Admittedly, many of our clients have scaled back on travel and slashed budgets. However, with other clients we’ve witnessed expansion and an increased volume in occupancy levels.
Where the uncertainty of Brexit has meant a loss of business from one client, the push to relocate to new areas has meant growth in new markets.
The weakening of the pound has again had positive and negative impacts. For business travellers outside of the EU, across APAC and the Americas, for example, a trip to London now represents greater value for money.
As far as corporate travel goes, demand for it will likely shoot up, said Rohitesh, as UK businesses relocate and more people from outside the UK settle here. What’s key, from a regulatory perspective, is whether or not UK aircraft operators will need to obtain a new operating licence from EU member states, taking into consideration the fact that we currently fall under the jurisdiction of the European Aviation Safety Agency. Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive for the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), argued that such changes will add complexity to travel, and, in doing so, offer a much needed wake up call for the UK.
However disruptive, we probably won’t see the true economic impact of Brexit for the next two years at least. The Bank of England has repeatedly warned against the dangers to come, but such pessimism may very well help the UK prepare for better days. Here at SilverDoor, at least, we look ahead to a promising future on the global stage.