U.K. tourism numbers have fallen in the wake of the U.S. vote to leave the European Union and the imposition of tighter controls, according to data from tourism agency Gatlinburg Travel Information.
The agency said Monday that Britain’s holiday industry was in “the worst shape it has been since the financial crisis of 2008,” with the tourism sector suffering from a shortage of hotel rooms and travel agents struggling to find staff to work with a shrinking workforce.
In its first quarter earnings report since Britain voted to leave in June, Gatlinberg said holidaymakers were spending just $1.3 billion ($1.25 billion) on travel in 2018, a decline of more than 15 percent from the $2.4 billion ($2.27 billion) the previous quarter.
The downturn was also apparent in other sectors, with travel and leisure spending falling to $2 billion in 2019, the lowest amount since 2008, the agency said.
“We expect to see further falls in holiday spending as a result of Brexit,” said Gatlinville Travel Information’s president and chief executive, Mark Boughton.
“There’s been a lot of disruption in the industry, and people have been looking to go abroad and find work.”
Boughton noted that the British government had cut its own funding for travel, saying the government was now looking to fund the economy through its “travel tax” to fund infrastructure projects.
The British government has pledged to keep the country’s tourism budget at a level that would be sustainable for the next four years.
The government, which has pledged a minimum spending of 1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on tourism, has said it will seek to raise revenue by imposing “stricter controls” on tourism.
It has also announced plans to reduce the number of flights booked to Europe.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the U,S.
was the top destination for tourists after the U and Mexico, with both the U-S.
and Mexico reporting record numbers of visitors in 2019.
In September, British authorities announced a “bespoke, three-year, multi-billion-pound” scheme to support tourism in the country, which was hailed as a step in the right direction but still had room for improvement.
Gatlinburg said it would continue to operate in Britain despite Brexit, but it would be open to considering “alternatives” to its services if the economy continues to decline.