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New passport rules have scuppered EU school visits; Market dives 83% costing UK plc over £700m/year

New research published today shows that in a survey of 82 specialist European tour

operators, the number of students they sent to the UK in 2022 was down 83% compared to


This dramatic drop is due to the elimination of the ‘List of Travellers’ scheme whereby EU

students in organised school groups, accompanied by teachers, could travel to the UK

using their national ID cards rather than passports.

There is now a requirement that all such students must have a full passport. This is a

document that many EU children normally do not need to travel around most of Europe,

and so many do not have one. Figures vary by country but, for example, it is estimated that

only 35% of Italian school children have a passport. The cost (anywhere between €50-€120)

and administrative burden of obtaining such documents is a substantial barrier to those

considering a trip to the UK.

The research undertaken by the Tourism Alliance, UKinbound, English UK, BETA, and ETOA

shows that the new requirement for students to have full passports to enter the UK is, for

instance, crippling the UK English language school industry with many EU student groups

being sent instead to destinations such as Ireland.

In 2019, the UK hosted 1.2m students from EU countries who came to learn English,

experience the country’s history and culture, or to attend cultural and sporting event. These

students spend £1bn in the local economy, support around 17,000 jobs and are a

significant component of the UK’s soft power activities.

It is more complicated still for the many schools who have pupils whose parents are foreign

immigrants. These children have the right to live in the EU but do not yet have access to an

EU passport. To obtain a passport, they have to apply to the country from which their

parents fled and even if they obtain one, many would also need a visa to enter the UK. The

effect of all this is that it is much easier for schools to organise trips to countries other than

the UK.

The industry is not expected to recover, as operators indicate that the number of school

groups they will send to the UK in 2023 will be down by at least 60%, meaning a further loss

of revenue for the UK economy of £600m.

Richard Toomer, Tourism Alliance Executive Director, stated, “Student group travel was an

important market for the UK economy. There are many reasons that these groups would

want to visit the UK for sporting events, cultural visits, events and many more. What has

happened to the UK’s once-strong English language school industry, is a prime example of

the damage done by this policy and as a result the country is losing almost £1.5bn in export


“The immediate financial loss is severe, but as important is the loss of soft power. They

were exactly the kind of first-time visitors that we need to attract; not only would they return

throughout their lives, but their experience of regional UK would be amplified back home.

“Leaving the European Union does not mean we had to lose the List of Travellers scheme.

The Government should urgently reinstate it or a similar youth group travel scheme,

recognising the extremely low risk represented by these child travellers, the negligible cost,

and the positive economic impact.”

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