Virgin Atlantic’s founder spoke yesterday during the airline’s inaugural flight to Seattle, two days before prime minister Theresa May announces the triggering of Article 50 on Wednesday.
TTG questioned whether he believed the sector should be doing more to make its voice heard about the potential negative impact Brexit could have on business, to which Branson replied that travel companies would be “foolish” not to air their concerns to ministers.
“I speak out and I think others should speak out too. A hard Brexit will damage the travel industry severely. The travel industry has already been damaged severely from just the thought of Brexit,” Branson said.
“We are talking about the travel industry losing hundreds of millions and billions I suspect – collectively, so they would be foolish not to speak out.”
Branson was an avid supporter of the Remain campaign during last June’s vote, and just last week he urged the UK to consider holding a second referendum, telling US news network CNBC he believed the UK’s exit from the EU would be a “shot in the foot”.
“If I was a business person and I was going to make the most important business decision of my life I wouldn’t decide to make it three years before it happens and then say ‘I’m going to stick with whatever the outcome of that business negotiation is in three years’ time.’ I would leave my options open,” he said.
“I just hope that sanity will prevail and if it’s going to damage Great Britain and the travel industry, that someone will own up to that fact.
Branson added that the “slump” in the value of the pound against the dollar in the wake of the Brexit vote meant British holidaymakers were having “difficulty” affording to travel.
“In the airline industry of course, all our costs are in dollars and for people in the travel industry it makes things very expensive,” he added.