Demand for US strong but price hikes a challenge

The trade remains bullish about US sales as demand continues to hold up despite the rising cost of holidays to and in the destination.

Agents and operators said the immediate spike in US sales had not tailed off significantly since pre-departure Covid testing was dropped in June, with particularly strong sales for later this year and Easter 2023.

Specialist Ocean Florida said bookings had levelled off at 25% above where they were prior to restrictions being lifted.

Harry Hastings, co-chief executive of parent company Ocean Holidays, said demand was mostly for beyond summer as clients sought to avoid airport disruption, with the market showing “signs of getting back to what we are all used to” for 2023.

USAirtours cited strong demand but cautioned that hikes in the cost of living and holidays, of up to 20% on 2019, could be challenging.

Chief executive Guy Novik said: “In 2023, we’ll struggle to reach the same [sales] levels as 2019 because of prices rising.”

Prices have been squeezed by the poor exchange rate with the dollar; increased fuel prices; high US domestic demand pushing up room prices; and rises in car rental costs.

Barrhead Travel president Jacqueline Dobson said Florida, New York and Las Vegas were firm favourites for later this year and 2023, but added: “We’re conscious airfares are higher, so we’re really focusing on value – whether that’s a cruise, multi‑centre trips or including attractions in the total cost.”

Theme park specialists said major parks such as Walt Disney World Florida and Universal Orlando were driving demand. Attraction Tickets chief executive Oliver Brendon said ‘tier two’ attractions were harder to sell but added: “We haven’t seen any slowing down of demand.”

Attraction World Group chief operating officer Justin Mahoney said the company had enjoyed a 20% increase in the average number of passengers per booking this year versus 2019, suggesting “families are not being put off from booking”.

Premier Holidays reported longer durations and higher-value bookings, but urged agents to encourage early bookings. Product and commercial director Mark Godfrey said: “Exchange rates, availability and airfares are volatile so the best deals are available to those who book early.”

MoreOcean Holidays predicts long-haul boom as disruption hits short-haul

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