News | Published January 26 2020

Seasonal Business in Travel report intensifies Brexit concerns for snow sports operators like The Ski Club of Great Britain

The uncertainty surrounding the impact of Brexit on the snow sports industry has culminated in the foundation of Season Business in Trade [SBIT], a group which is lobbying for awareness of the Brexit-related issues facing the sector. The Ski Club of Great Britain, an industry operator, contributed to the foundation of the group. However, the SBIT’s latest findings will do little to relieve industry concerns as Brexit day draws closer.

The SBIT, which represents over 200 outbound British travel companies, outlines its aims as “protecting the 25,000 British jobs” in the industry, adding that the European holiday industry contributes £16.5 billion to UK GDP and makes a direct contribution of £1 billion to the Treasury. It believes as a group that Brexit in its current form will put these contributions at risk.

The SBIT’s most recent press release will have done little to ease the concerns. The group carried out a survey in November 2019 prior to the general election, as a follow-up to their August 2018 report titled ‘A Crisis Looming’.

The survey revealed that within the 65 independent UK based travel companies interviewed, there was an average cut of 30 per cent of the company workforce since 2016, amid fears that Brexit will culminate in difficulties moving UK staff and resources easily around Europe.

The same fears, the survey says, have led to cuts in holidays made available to the public and price increases.

Among the interviewed operators, 1,700 jobs were recorded to have been cut since 2016, with most of them affecting jobs seconded to the EU to run holiday operations. The majority of these roles were occupied by 18-34 year olds.

The report also indicates average cuts in holiday programmes of 19 per cent, equivalent to 3,800 beds per week. The knock-on effect is a severe loss of revenue for many companies which has led to consumer prices increasing, in spite of efforts to keep them down. The average price increase in holidays recorded since 2016 is as excessive as £97 per person.

The fall in the offering of holiday programmes is considered to be a response to fears that British holiday companies will no longer have the ability to employ UK staff in Europe on UK terms. So rather than paying UK tax and national insurance, employees would instead have to pay into far more expensive European social insurance schemes.

For many companies, the SBIT fears that they will not be able to absorb the vast increases in costs and since they are set up in a way that they cannot employ EU nationals, they will ultimately be forced to sell up or face going out of business. This SBIT says, means grave implications for the contribution the industry makes to the UK economy.

Furthermore, the impact of Brexit on rising consumer costs and the reduced opportunities for young people are only set to cause further issues for a sector which is already seeing interest from young people wane.

According to The Telegraph’s online ski editor, Lucy Aspden, in the Ski Club of Great Britain’s 2019 consumer research questionnaire, it was discovered that only 9,000 respondents were aged between 16 and 25. 65 per cent were 65 or over. There are an estimated 2.2 million active skiers or snowboarders in the UK.

Out of the reasons why the Ski Club found that respondents were not interested in snow sports, the highest amount [38 per cent] reported the expense as the primary reason. Rising consumer costs as a result of Brexit uncertainty are only likely to exacerbate the problem.

However, as the Ski Club’s CEO Darren Neylon told The Parliamentary Review, the club itself is taking steps to address this by forming new partnerships to target youngsters.

Neylon said: “The growing popularity of indoor snow domes and dry slopes in the UK has led to a surge in participation among those interested in freestyle snow sports, and these are target audiences for the club as we look to the future.

“To engage a younger audience, we launched a student membership in 2015 and now partner with NUCO, the UK’s largest student snow sports tour operator.”

The Ski Club can target younger audiences in its own ways to ease the issue, however, it is clear that the impacts of Brexit will affect the industry in ways that are more challenging to mitigate. The government would do well to heed the concerns of industry in terms of how it will affect business, and the knock-on effect that these issues will have on the UK economy.

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
January 26 2020

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