The period of uncertainty following a Brexit vote would have an impact on the pound, making the cost of holidaying more expensive, as well as adding costs for UK businesses to buy abroad, the UK's largest travel association has said.
In a report titled What Brexit might mean for UK Travel, Abta and Deloitte found the most immediate concern would be that the pound would fall in value, directly impacting on spending power overseas.
“Our assessment of the report’s findings is that a vote to leave will lead to uncertainties and may lead to increased costs for travel businesses and the travelling public. We recognise that people will approach this referendum by considering many factors – personal, professional, and economic – before casting their vote," Mark Tanzer, Abta's chief executive, said.
He added that Abta has considered what a vote to leave the EU might mean purely from a travel perspective, and concluded "our view is that the potential risks and downsides are not matched by an equal upside for the traveller".
Abta, which represents travel agents and tour operators, also warned that there are currently many EU regulations that have been designed to benefit holidaymakers and business travellers, and Brexit could impact on future regulations.
In particular, it drew attention to financial protection for package holidays, compensation for flight delays, as well as assess to free health cover through the European Health Insurance Card and caps on mobile phone charges. Open skies across the EU had also led to more routes, airlines and lower fares.
The report stated over 29m foreign holidays each year are made by UK holidaymakers to EU countries, meaning 76 per cent of all holidays taken are to EU countries. Some 68 business trips from the UK are to EU countries.
"Tourism and travel trade between the UK and EU has been facilitated by the free movement of goods and services, investment and people across the EU. A Brexit could jeopardise this free movement, and affect the flow of trade and travel," the report added.
As well as the impact on consumers, the report warned of a skills shortage and the industry's need for immigration.
It said the travel and tourism sectors employ a significant number of immigrants and any changes limiting the sector’s ability to recruit or employ foreign nationals, including those from the EU, could challenge many travel and hospitality businesses in filling a number of roles – especially given the current levels of UK employment and existing skills shortages.