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Post Brexit, plunging Pound attracts US and Chinese tourists

Chinese Tourists take a selfie on the river Thames in London. Photograph: (Getty)

Reuters Shanghai, China Jun 28, 2016, 12.25 PM (IST)
US and Chinese online travel sites have reported a jump in queries about UK holidays since Britain voted to leave the European Union last week. A sign that 'Brexit' and the resulting dramatic drop in the pound could boost tourism. 

Travel agents, hotel chains and airlines say it is too early to tell if the vote will impact bookings in the long run, but inquiries jumped as travelers hunt for cheaper breaks. 

Britain's decision to pull out of the European Union leaves the world's fifth-largest economy facing deep uncertainty. The pound has dropped to its lowest level in over three decades.

But for travelers like the university official Wen Zhihong, from China`s western city Chengdu, that means lower prices. She had been planning to spend her vacation travelling with her daughter in France and Italy, but said she changed her mind after the vote.

"Now it seems a better idea to travel to England," Wen, said. "With the depreciation of the Pound, hotels, plane tickets and shopping are all much cheaper."

Ctrip.com, China's biggest online travel agency, has already sought to capitalise on the surge, arguing this week that a summer vacation in Britain could now be a third cheaper, helping UK searches on its app triple.

The company put out flyers with a dancing, winking figure wearing a t-shirt depicting the UK flag. The advertisement read, in Chinese, "Brexit: travel on the drop". In the background, a weeping figure in a European Union flag waves 'bye'.

In the US, online portals also reported a surge.

On June 24, as the result of the Brexit vote came through, Priceline Group Inc's Kayak said it saw a 54 per cent increase in US searches exploring fares to the United Kingdom, compared with other Fridays in the month of June.

Flight searches from the UK for US travel also rose by 46 per cent, according to Kayak.

"Americans may want to secure a great fare, while British may be worried that higher fares will soon hit the market," said Billy Sanez, vice president of marketing and communications at FareCompare.com, a company which analyses airfares.

Search site Travelzoo saw a 35.3 per cent increase in travel searches from the US to the UK from June 24 to June 27. So did StudentUniverse, a travel booking site popular among young people, which saw searches for flights from the US to the UK double from a year ago.

"People are changing their mind and choosing to visit Britain, because with the depreciation of the Pound it’s cheaper for them to go there to buy things," said a senior executive at Beijing Utour International Travel Service.

He said the company was applying for more airline seats to accommodate tour bookings.

(Reuters)
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