Tourism, education and health-related travel services
UK trade in tourism, education and health-related travel services
241.Of the sectors covered by this inquiry, only trade in travel services falls under WTO (GATS) mode 2 (‘consumption abroad’), whereby a consumer of services travels to the location of the service provider. While a traveller is defined as a person staying for less than one year in an economy where they are not a resident, trade statistics also include students and medical patients, however short their stay, because they remain formally residents of their country of origin.339
242.In this chapter, we consider the UK’s trade in travel services, encompassing tourism (or personal travel), education and health-related travel services. We recognise that there are wider issues for these sectors in the context of Brexit, and our comments do not reflect on the relative importance of these services to the UK domestic economy. Nor do we discuss the need to travel for business purposes (to provide or consume a service), which is covered in previous chapters.
243.Personal travel services include recreational holidays and the money spent in the local economy by visitors. Overseas tourism in the UK is treated as ‘exports’, while UK tourism abroad is treated as ‘imports’. Globally, trade in personal travel services accounts for 83% of all travel services imports and 55% of the UK’s exports340. The ONS’ written evidence to this inquiry showed that the UK runs a deficit of £11.5 billion in tourism services with the EU. This deficit is so large it outweighs the UK’s surplus of trade in most other services sectors (valued at £9.8 billion).341
244.Exports in education-related travel services are measured according to the tuition fees and other expenditure of students who are funded from abroad while studying in the UK. Likewise, imports relate to the expenditure of UK students studying abroad.342 EU-funded R&D projects are not treated as traded education-related services, and are beyond the scope of this inquiry.
245.The UK is a world leader in education services. In 2014/15 there were 312,010 students from outside the EU enrolled at a UK university, and a further 124,575 students from EU countries. In total, 10.3% of the world’s mobile students studied in the UK, second only to the US.343
246.Although accounting for a small percentage of the volume of services trade, trade in health-related travel services refers to the cost of medical and other expenses of those travelling abroad receiving medical treatment.
247.The NHS Confederation told us that “the principle of the free movement of services applies also to health services”. This was not only because “health service providers can offer their services in the other EU Member States”, but, more frequently, because patients can also receive health services abroad.344 Examples include the short-term provision of emergency health services (through the use of the European Health Insurance Card), and the provision of longer-term care (for example, care for retirees in Spain, the costs of which are reimbursed through legislation between Member States). Trade in health services also includes elective treatment where a citizen of one Member State “goes to another to receive care on a voluntary basis”.345