Tourism Alliance’s latest research shows that the number of students European tour operators sent to the UK in 2022 was down 83% compared to 2019. This dramatic drop is due to the elimination of the ‘List of Travellers’ scheme whereby EU students in organised school groups, accompanied by teachers, could travel to the UK using their national ID cards rather than passports.
EU children do not need a passport to travel around most of Europe, so they do not have one. Figures vary by country but, for example, it is estimated that only 35% of Italian school children have a passport. The cost (anywhere between €50-€120) and administrative burden of obtaining such documents is a substantial barrier to those considering a trip to the UK, especially since they are most likely not used for other travels.
Leaving the European Union does not mean we had to lose the List of Travellers scheme. The Government should urgently reinstate it or a similar youth group travel scheme.Richard Toomer, Tourism Alliance Executive Director
The research, undertaken in collaboration with UKinbound, English UK, BETA and ETOA, surveyed 82 specialists and shows that the new requirement for students to have full passports to enter the UK is crippling the UK English language school industry with many EU student groups being sent instead to destinations such as Ireland.
In 2019, the UK hosted 1.2 million students from EU countries who came to learn English, experience the country’s history and culture or to attend cultural and sporting events. These students spend £1bn in the local economy, support around 17,000 jobs and are a significant component of the UK’s soft power activities.
It is more complicated still for the many schools who have pupils whose parents are foreign immigrants. These children have the right to live in the EU but do not yet have access to an EU passport. To obtain a passport, they have to apply to the country from which their parents fled and even if they obtain one, many would also need a visa to enter the UK. The effect of all this is that it is much easier for schools to organise trips to countries other than the UK.
The industry is not expected to recover, as operators indicate that the number of school groups they will send to the UK in 2023 will be down by at least 60%, meaning a further loss of revenue for the UK economy of £600m.
“Student group travel was an important market for the UK economy. There are many reasons that these groups would want to visit the UK for sporting events, cultural visits and many more. What has happened to the UK’s once-strong English language school industry, is a prime example of the damage done by this policy and as a result the country is losing almost £1.5bn in export revenue”, said Richard Toomer, Tourism Alliance Executive Director.