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‘Brexit’ means traveling to the U.K. will likely be much cheaper this summer

Travel to London
People ride on a fairground ride with the London Eye and Big Ben as a backdrop as the sun sets in London in September 2013.
(Andrew Cowie/AFP/Getty Images)

Demand for travel was already strong in the U.S., and the vote by the U.K. to leave the European Union will make it cheaper for Americans to visit their British cousins across the pond.

The exit of the United Kingdom from the 28-nation union has pushed the value of the British pound down relative to the U.S. dollar, making it likely that more U.S. travelers will visit Britain to take advantage of the disparity.

On Friday morning, the pound to dollar exchange dropped 7.44% to $1.3766, the lowest level in decades. Data from the metasearch travel site Liligo.com shows that searches from throughout the world for flights to Britain began to rise Thursday.

But beyond that travel incentive, the vote, referred to as “Brexit,” has created mostly uncertainty in the travel industry.

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“It’s too early to predict what impact it will have on tourism,” said Jonathan Grella, executive vice president for public affairs at the U.S. Travel Assn., which promotes travel in the U.S.

In the short term, travel between Europe and the U.K. is not expected to change, at least until the breakup is formally negotiated over the next two years or so, travel experts say. More than 117 million people traveled by air between the U.K. and the rest of the EU in 2015.

“The Brexit vote has triggered much uncertainty — financial and otherwise,” said Tony Tyler, director general and chief executive of International Air Transport Assn., the trade group for the world’s airlines. “As leaders in the U.K. and the EU work to establish a new framework for their relationship, one certainty to guide them is the need and desire of people on both sides of that relationship to travel and trade.”

But David Scowsill, president and chief executive of the World Travel & Tourism Council, a nonprofit forum for the world’s travel industry, said he expects that travel and tourism will remain strong over the long run.

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“We know that our sector is resilient and we expect business and leisure travel to hold up in the face of these challenges,” he said.

Over the past year, Britain has enjoyed a surge in international visitors, especially from the U.S. and Canada.

In the 12 months leading up to April, the number of visits to the U.K. was 5% higher than the same period a year earlier. The number of visitors who came from North America rose by 11% and jumped 4% from Europe, according to the Office of National Statistics in the U.K.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom has been a huge source of tourism for the U.S.

The U.K. was the third largest source of international visitors to the U.S. in 2015, behind only Canada and Mexico, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Last year, 4.9 million visitors traveled from the U.K. to the U.S., an 18% increase from the previous year. The only other countries with a bigger surge in visitors to the U.S. last year were South Korea, with a 20% increase, and China, with an 18.3% increase, Department of Commerce data show.


UPDATES:

11:46 a.m.: This article was updated with figures on recent travel by British visitors to the U.S.

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This article was originally published at 11:15 a.m.


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