Post-Brexit immigration rules in the UK have had a huge impact on school trips bookings from EU countries, whilst many European countries are now in higher demand than Britain, organisers have said.
According to operators, the pandemic has affected European school trips, but EU countries are still in much higher demand than the UK.
This is also because of UK government’s requirement to book and pay for two Covid tests, but the biggest hit has been Britain’s decision to refuse EU group passports and ID cards since 1 October and only accept individual passports.
One school trips operator, Eurovoyages, told The Guardian that “schools have forgotten the UK was a destination”.
In 2022, one company may not have any pupils come to the UK
And, whilst the company received 53 inquiries for trips to Ireland next year, and others for Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria and the Netherlands, it received “precisely two requests for the UK, one of which has already changed its mind and decided to visit Ireland.”
Monique Tissot Martel, Eurovoyages general manager, said French schools wanting pupils to experience an English-speaking environment are now even considering Normandy and its British host families.
She said: “It is really a shame, as trips to the UK were very popular.
“In 2019 we sent more than 11,000 students to the UK. Next year it will be between zero and 100.”
German tour operator CTS Reisen told the newspaper that the demand for trips to the UK dropped from over 1,200 school groups and 37,000 pupils to zero bookings for next year.
And he said that, because most see Britain as “too difficult now”, customers now book other destinations instead.
Owner Peter Adam slammed UK’s Covid restrictions as “tougher in the UK than in other European countries” and highlighted parents would now have to fork out more money from their pockets to get their children individual passports, in order to meet UK’s new rules.
‘Completely abandoned the UK’
Meanwhile, LinguaStay labelled the decline in bookings as “absolutely dramatic”, highlighting European schools were previously sending a million children to the UK each year on trips, but that the continent has “completely abandoned the UK for other countries”.
She told The Guardian: “These children learn English staying in host families.
“They mix with the local community, take part in workshops such as drama and cookery, have integration days at local schools and guided tours of cities and tourist attractions. They travel off peak, which helps many smaller UK towns and businesses outside peak season.”
Meanwhile, French firm Verdié Voyages, which sent 800 coaches of pupils to England in 2019, said requests for 2022 dropped by 80 per cent.
The company said that because of Brexit, the UK, once its main destination, is “almost unsaleable”.
And PG Trips told the newspaper that his firm used to book 80 per cent of its school trips to Britain and only 20 per cent to Ireland, but in 2022 the reverse will apply, with requests for Britain amounting to 10 per cent.
“You only need an EU identity card to travel there, for non-EU students the ‘list of travellers’ is still accepted, and as far as Covid is concerned the EU health pass is sufficient. People much prefer to pay a little more but not have all the UK constraints,” PG Trips’ Edward Hisbergues said.