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BREXIT


TRAVEL MANAGERS


NEED TO KEEP A CLOSER CHECK THAN BEFORE ON PASSPORT EXPIRATION DATES


across the EU were abolished “following a long campaign and a series of staged price cuts,” says Amex GBT. Brexit may see those prices rise again and in that scenario, travel managers should “take a close look at their travellers’ mobile statements and seek alternative solutions”, such as international data packages or secure wifi hotspots.


Then there is medical insurance – the European


Health Insurance card (EHIC) granting British citizens state-provided medical treatment while travelling could cease. In addition, there may be a change in logistics at arrivals gates in airports. The EU lane may be removed for those entering the UK, says the GTMC, which could impact travel times. None of this touches on the impact of the longer term, and virtually unknown, changes to our relationship with the EU once new agreements are made. With the divorce deal still not in place, the only clues as to what that future relationship may be are in the vague language of the political declaration agreed to by Mrs May and the EU. The UK may see a hit to its economy as this future is thrashed out. “It is expected that the UK economy will go down a bit, resulting in the pound losing value. Therefore, any travel outside of the UK will become more expensive,” predicts a senior buyer from Germany. “Plan to have more budget for travel from the UK.” We may expect to see the dynamics of the workforce


change, too. “With new EU citizens and potential hires being treated just the same as new non-EU citizens, employers will have to think twice about sponsoring them to the tune of probably around £5,000,” points out a senior marketing and branding buyer. Existing EU employees may also find themselves required to qualify for residency under the proposed settlement scheme, he adds. “We have always tracked our EU employees and their family members so we are prepared for action when it happens.” Ultimately, monitoring the rapidly evolving situation in this way is one of the few practical things travel buyers can do. “There is still a great deal of uncertainty around the implications of Brexit in terms of trade deals, so until the situation becomes clear, it’s very much business as usual for our clients,” says Paul East, chief operating officer for UK/ Europe & the Americas at Wings Travel Management. “Our focus is on monitoring the situation and being ready to provide concise information to our clients on the potential impact on travel as and when it becomes available. “When the implications of Brexit are clearer, we will work closely with our clients’ travel managers and buyers to review their travel programmes accordingly.”


ENGAGE WITH YOUR CORPORATES “Given the fast-moving Brexit political landscape it’s difficult for any business right now to put in place any practical steps to mitigate any impact,” agrees Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership. “However, TMCs right now should be engaging with their corporates to understand the impact they believe they could be facing.” The only thing we can be certain of right now is continuing uncertainty. “If we’ve learned anything from global politics over the past five years, it’s to expect the unexpected,” says Amex GBT’s Ferguson.


THREE TOP TIPS FOR PREPARING FOR BREXIT:


1. Know where you stand. The minute there is clarity on what Brexit could mean for business travel, those buyers that are up to speed on areas, such as passport expiration dates, immigration status and medical insurance will be best placed to respond.


108 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2019


2. Factor Brexit into budgets. Even those that support Brexit accept the economy could face a few bumps in the road in the months and years to come, with knock-on effects for flight and travel costs. Keep this in mind when compiling travel budgets for the next financial year.


3. Monitor developments closely. It might sound obvious, but don’t give in to Brexit fatigue and make sure you’re up to speed. Read news from trusted sources, attend webinars, conferences and trade shows. Think twice about bringing in lawyers or consultants at this stage.


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