Spain has been a favorite destination for Britons and travelers from all over the world for some time now thanks to its sunny weather, beautiful beaches, and many cities of art and culture. If you have not gone yourself, you probably know someone who has visited the Iberian peninsula before.
Thanks to geographical proximity, favorable airfares and the possibility to visit the country without a Spanish visa, UK citizens traditionally make up a great (if not the biggest) portion of the sunny nation’s tourism revenue. In 2018, Spain placed second in the list of most visited countries in the world with 82.8 million tourists visiting its territory. As many as 18.5 million of those came from Britain.
But things risk changing for the worse due to Brexit. There are several ways in which Brexit may affect Spanish tourism, especially in case of a complete severance from the EU.
With the negotiations coming to an end and Brexit being implemented in 2021, we now have an idea of what new rules will apply.
Factors affecting the Spanish holiday market: Currency exchange
A strong currency is certainly an advantage budget-wise for holidaymakers.
The moment Brits voted out of the EU in June 2016, sterling started falling and never really returned to its pre-Brexit value. Sterling has dropped against euro — at the time of writing, £1 is worth €1.11 while it was €1.12 back in 2016.
In the case that the UK and EU cannot strike a long term deal, the sterling may fall even further, persuading Brits to save on exchange rates and go to countries with weaker currencies for their holidays.
The good news is, airfares are getting cheaper as a result of a combination of factors, Brexit included. Major Europeans airlines like EasyJet and Ryanair are lowering their fares because of the prolonged Brexit uncertainty, an excess in seating capacity, and a weaker sterling.
However, UK airlines will stop being considered EU companies and therefore, they will not enjoy the same air traffic rights as European lines. For this reason, some routes of companies like Vueling and Iberia (part of the British IAG group) may be affected. We will know more later in 2021.
Will Brits spend their Holidays in Spain after Brexit?
Britain officially left the EU in February 2020. At present, a transition period exists between the two entities, which expires in 2021.
Brexit negotiations have been a cause of worry for EU and UK citizens alike, who have been wondering exactly to what extent freedom of movement will be affected in the European area. Will UK nationals be able to travel to the EU visa-free as they are now, and what about permanent residency?
Will there be a Spain visa for UK citizens?
Fortunately, short-term stays such as holidays have already been discussed and at the beginning of April 2019, the European Parliament announced that UK citizens will not need a visa in order to visit the EU for up to 6 months and for tourism or business purposes. However, they will need a long-term visa (such as a work or study permit) to relocate to the Schengen Area for long periods of time or permanently.
Students should be aware that the UK will leave the Erasmus project, meaning that British students will no longer be able to participate in this exchange programme and travel to Spanish and other EU universities.
Since they will be holding a visa-exempt passport, British travelers will most likely need to apply for an ETIAS visa waiver before entering the Schengen area for short trips. An ETIAS visa waiver is a travel authorization that differs from traditional visas. It will come into full effect at the end of 2022 and will allow citizens of over 60 countries to visit territories within the Schengen Area for up to 90 days.
All they will have to do in order to apply for an ETIAS visa waiver is fill out an application form online before entering Europe. The ETIAS online process is designed to be quick and straightforward and the program is intended to simplify border checks and have better control over travel into and within the Schengen Area.
The European condition of reciprocity must apply. This means that Brits will travel to Spain and other Schengen countries visa-free only since the same rights are granted to EU citizens visiting the UK. This is the standard procedure regarding visa exemption under EU regulations.
British citizens will be able to continue travelling to Spain with just their national ID (and vice versa) until the 30th of September 2021. After that, they will need to carry their passport.
How does Brexit affect Gibraltar?
Gibraltar will not suffer a ‘hard Brexit.’ This was confirmed on December 31st by Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs Arancha González Laya who announced that Gibraltar will remain within the Schengen Area thanks to a special deal between the UK and the EU.
Until the details of the deal are finalised, border processes in Gibraltar will remain unchanged.