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July 8, 2021updated 25 Apr 2022 1:34pm

UK’s market share of US tourists is at risk

Although the UK is a popular destination for US tourists, quarantine restrictions may urge US travellers to choose other European places.

By Globaldata Travel and Tourism

The status of the UK as the most visited destination for US tourists in Europe is threatened by mandatory quarantine on arrival. The list of European destinations now allowing US tourists to travel without quarantine is growing, meaning other European hotspots could prove to be more desirable in the short term.

Quarantine restrictions will defer recovery

One of the main factors that are curbing travel demand in 2021 is quarantine. A GlobalData poll found that quarantine restrictions were the primary deterrent for travelling during this pandemic**. Another poll found that travelling to visit a different continent is high***. There is a higher demand for domestic trips but 37% of respondents desired to travel to a different continent, likely opting for a change of scenery after increased time spent at home during the past year. This, therefore, highlights that US tourists may be eager to visit destinations further afield.

Paying for quarantine can also wrack up expenses due to extra costs related to accommodation and additional testing if required. Over 50% (53%) of US respondents stated they had cut budgets in the last year due to financial constraints in GlobalData’s Q12021 consumer survey****. Demand for transatlantic travel may be high, but tourists are likely to avoid additional payouts if possible. This is an area where the UK may fall short, but other European hotspots such as Italy, Germany and France may prosper. These destinations have lifted mandatory quarantine requirements for inbound US tourists subject to other measures such as vaccination certificates and negative test results.

News of a transatlantic air bubble or ‘travel corridor’ between the UK and the US has been long in discussion. What remains clear is that the longer it is delayed, the greater risk of US tourists opting to holiday elsewhere across Europe in 2021 and into 2022.

Europe is a favourite amongst US tourists

Europe typically allures US visitors with its vast range of experiences on offer related to history, culture, art and nature. Historically, the UK has been the most popular European travel destination for US tourists. In 2019 (the last ‘normal’ tourism year), 27% of total US international departures were to Europe and the UK received 4.4 million (12.7% of total US departures to Europe).

Other European destinations such as France, Italy, Spain and Germany are inherently popular with US travellers. Sun and beach getaways, adventure experiences and city breaks were typically the most sought-after holidays by US respondents in GlobalData’s Q3 2019 consumer survey*. These holiday experiences heavily feature across Europe and therefore explain its popularity with this source market.

International arrivals from the US to Europe decreased by -75% year on year (YoY) in 2020, due to international travel restrictions and respective border closures because of the pandemic. Out of the top five European hotspots for US tourists, the UK experienced one of the largest declines in US visitation (-76% YoY), less than other destinations such as France (-64.9% YoY) and Italy (-64.2% YoY) in 2020. The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on transatlantic travel are well-known to be catastrophic, but strict protocols in the UK may further delay recovery this year.

* GlobalData’s Q32019 consumer survey – 990 US respondents

**GlobalData’s poll, 17 Nov 2020 – 18 May 2021, 1,364 respondents

***GlobalData’s poll, live since 17 Nov 2020, 1,431 respondents

**** GlobalData’s Q12021 consumer survey – 610 US respondents

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