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Experts predict little Brexit impact on cruising but questions remain

(Photo: Mary Bond)
Seatrade Europe Brexit panel, from left, UK Chamber of Shipping's Tim Reardon, Hill Dickinson's Javed Ali, RCL Cruises' Stuart Leven, Thanos Pallis of MedCruise
While Brexit continues to generate uncertainty and many questions, cruise industry experts are generally optimistic that the trade to British ports and operations of UK cruise vessels to European Union ports will continue largely unchanged.

This message was delivered by a Seatrade Europe panel focused on Brexit's implications for cruising.

Tim Reardon, policy director – taxation, ferry & cruise, UK Chamber of Shipping, pointed out the UK government recently stressed the value and importance of the tourist industry, and no major changes to immigration and customs control are expected after the UK has abandoned EU membership.

The EU has not given an official statement on the future status of UK tourists yet. However, Thanos Pallis, secretary general, MedCruise, expects no major changes for cruise ships calling at EU ports.

'Nobody will get mad and reimpose any significant barriers,' Pallis predicted, adding that minor adjustments, at the most, are to be expected.

Stuart Leven, VP EMEA and MD, RCL Cruises as well as chairman, CLIA UK & Ireland, agreed, referring specifically to Irish Sea itineraries which mostly include ports in Ireland and the UK, sometimes in an alternating pattern.

Noting that Norway is not an EU member and drawing a comparison to cruises calling at Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar and Morocco on their way into the Mediterranean, Leven assumed things will remain mostly as they are today, without any negative impact on the region's attractiveness for cruising.

Javed Ali of law firm Hill Dickinson said many questions remain to be settled with regard to regulatory issues such as health insurance, visa matters and mutual bonding in the context of the EU Package Travel Directive. (Cruises are regarded as package vacations.) However, he said the UK government strives to achieve as much uniformity between domestic legislation and EU standards as possible.

Leven said the first cruises taking place in the post-Brexit area—that is, beyond the three-year moratorium period after last year's referendum—are now on sale. According to the RCL executive, there are no signs of a drop in consumer confidence.

'Customers are resilient,' Leven concluded.

Pallis added that a big question is if the British pound will be a weak or strong currency after Brexit, adding this might significantly affect the source market.

The panel's views on Brexit were echoed by various UK exhibitors at Seatrade Europe, who told Seatrade Cruise News they expect no impact on tourism. Numerous destinations from all over the UK are present in Hamburg, including groups like Cruise Wales.

The Welsh government strategy aims to boost tourism 10% by 2020 with the cruise market identified as a key part of the strategy. The interest received by Cruise Wales from Seatrade Europe visitors suggests this will continue irrespective of Brexit.