ORGANISERS of educational trips from European schools have warned that tough post-Brexit entry requirements will likely halve the number of pupils visiting Britain by half.
School trips from France and Germany bring in as many as 750,000 pupils to the UK every year but new restrictions mean that organisers and schools are looking elsewhere.
Edward Hisbergues, the sales manager of a leading French operator PG Trips, told the Guardian they have “already seen a big fall-off in interest”.
Hisbergues said: “My business was 90% UK, 10% Ireland; now it’s all about Ireland. Schools are inquiring about visits to the Netherlands or Malta.”
There are also fears that there could be broader damage to Britain’s relationship with EU nations due to the decision by the UK Government not to exempt children taking part in short educational trips from new passport and visa measures.
The new measures are due to come into force on October 1 with the Government saying the new measures are needed to strengthen Britain’s borders.
The German federation of leading school trip organisers, which run around 7000 trips to the UK a year representing more than 1.5 million overnight stays, said these school trips “foster intercultural understanding and reduce prejudice”.
The federation added: “They forge lifelong connections with the UK, increase tolerance for people, cultures and different ways of living and thinking, and help the acquisition of language skills in the internationally most important language.”
Post-Brexit travel restrictions mean that EU national ID cards will no longer be accepted for entry into the UK from October 1 which is likely to deter less well-off families due to passport costs increasing a trip’s cost per child by as much as 20%.
Ingo Dobbert, the deputy chair of the German federation, said German children risk “being excluded from the valuable experience their predecessors had of travelling to and living in the UK”.
Trip organisers have particular concerns about the UK getting rid of the “list of travellers” scheme that allowed non-EU students, usually from immigrant families, to travel as part of a group without the need for a UK visa.
Schools across EU countries like France, Spain and Germany often only allow trips if every pupil in the class can go. This means groups with even one non-EU pupil will no longer consider Britain due to the cost and administrative hassle involved in securing a UK visa, the organisers told the Guardian.
The visa costs £95 and would mean between five and 10% of German trips and as many as half of French trips would be at risk.
The increased restrictions could affect UK businesses involved in hosting the trips and those cultural sites like museums, theatres and other attractions that they visit outside of busy holiday seasons.
French organisers said that 10,000 French trips a year represent an annual injection of £100m into the UK economy, often to areas where foreign visits are vital to the local economy.
German and French organisers asked the UK Government to allow an exception to rules for under-18s travelling as part of organised trips lasting less than two weeks to enter the UK with ID cards and urged it to maintain the “list of travellers” for school groups.
The request was rejected by Future Borders and Immigration Minister Kevin Foster (above), who said the UK was “committed to strengthening the security of our border”.
He said that the “list of travellers” scheme would end on October 1 when most European Economic Area nationals will need a passport “like everyone else”.
Foster added that keeping the “list of travellers” scheme would run counter to plans for a “position where everyone obtains an individual permission in advance of travel from the Home Office”.
He said that the new rules will be used to “keep those who may pose a threat away from our border and facilitate the passage of legitimate travellers”.
Dobbert said his federation “the strong impression” that the UK Government “has very little understanding of the problems we’ll have equipping children with passports and organising visas for non-German citizens”.
He added that the cost for UK trips would “explode” and it will have a “considerable influence” on decisions to travel to the UK, forcing them to choose “alternative English-speaking destinations”.