Tourism leader issues warning over Tory passport plans
By Neil Lancefield, PA Travel Correspondent
Conservative plans to stop EU citizens from entering the UK using national identity cards after Brexit will reduce the number of visitors to the country, a leading figure in the tourism industry has warned.
Joss Croft, chief executive of trade association UKinbound, expressed doubt that people would buy a passport simply to make the trip across the Channel.
He stated that passport ownership in many European countries is much lower than in the UK as many EU citizens travel on their ID cards throughout the borderless Schengen area.
He told the PA news agency: "We know that approximately only a third of Germans have passports, so to imagine that EU citizens will now pay for and acquire a passport solely to visit the UK is unrealistic.
"ID card usage is particularly prevalent among the many thousands of schoolchildren who visit from the EU, so proposals to remove the usage of these cards will need to take into account that many potential visitors will simply not come."
Mr Croft added that schoolchildren visiting from overseas provide a "valuable spend" on initial trips, followed by a "significant lifetime value" from return holidays.
In plans announced earlier this week, the Tories said they would prohibit the use of ID cards and require all visitors to hold a biometric passport.
The proposals to boost border security would also involve the introduction of an American-style visa waiver scheme.
The party hopes the Electronic Travel Authorisation would provide an enhanced ability to screen arrivals against watchlists and block those deemed to be a threat from entering the UK.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said the Conservatives are "committed to doing everything we can to secure the border and protect the UK".
Figures published by tourist board VisitBritain show that 71% of inbound visitors to the UK last year were from Europe.
They accounted for nearly half (49%) of the £22.9 billion spent by visitors from overseas.
Tim Farron, Lib Dem spokesman for culture, media and sport, said the UK tourism sector relies on visa-free access for European visitors.
He went on: "By implementing a US-style visa system for our European visitors we risk putting off thousands of customers of the UK's thriving tourist sector, threatening hundreds of family-run hotels and small businesses while reducing tax receipts.
"By remaining in the EU, we will benefit from better security cooperation to keep us safe, while ensuring we don't threaten our position as one of the world's most visited countries."