Taking place at the House of Lords in London, the organisation’s annual reception saw member and friends of BETA gather to celebrate the junior educational travel association’s most encouraging year since before the pandemic.
“Without all members, there would be no association and your robust resilience throughout all of this, along with your unwavering support of the association. And I think we all agree you probably are very optimistic as a sector has really helped us to continue,” chair Steve Lowy told attendees.
“It seems hard to believe that is only nine months ago that all international travel restrictions were lifted to the UK.
“A vital, vital selling period was missed at the start of the year, leaving many members behind the curve in terms of recovery. Brexit has had a lasting effect on our industry,” he continued.
Also in attendance and speaking was Lord Anderson of Ipswich, a cross-bench peer who made it clear that Brexit was indeed an issue that has caused more problems than successes, calling it an “own goal”.
“It seems to me that is one of those issues that we don’t require a negotiation to fix,” he said, referring to Brexit’s fallout in the sector.
“It’s something we can fix ourselves with a good dollop of common sense and persistence,” he declared.
Various members at the gathering told The PIE that while time had been missed, the summer was an encouraging period for the industry, and it has begun the rebuilding process in force.
However, Lowy made it clear that the current rules in place by the government on youth travel, and on international students, will further deter students from wanting to go to the UK for study.
Some 14.6 million youth and student travellers are visiting or studying in the UK each year, Lowy quoted, and of this figure there are approximately 1.2m EU school children under the age of 18 that visit the UK each year as part of an organised group.
“Whether it’s cultural visits, schools, English language and many other things, collectively that group of young people spend £1 billion on the UK economy. They travel across the UK. They often stay with local families or in smaller areas. They spend in the local economy,” he stressed.
“It’s something we can fix ourselves with a good dollop of common sense”
He also implored for a youth travel scheme to be set up, otherwise more dire consequences may await the sector.
“We will continue to lose our market share and as a lot of business owners I hear these students are not travelling, travelling to Malta, Malta and Israel in particular, and they really benefit from our own policies.
“The UK needs to act now to reverse the movement of youth groups to either to other English speaking countries as we have risk of links to the UK being irrevocably broken,” Lowy added.
Shadow minister for tourism Jeff Smith also pointed out that there was an awareness of how much the youth travel List of Travellers Scheme, which was put in place after Brexit, has caused “huge issues” for most visitors in education.
“We heard the sector’s request for the youth group travel scheme scheme to be created, which would enable UK travel operators and businesses to get back our share of those UK and EU young people – I think it makes a lot of sense,” he commented.