US gateways eye big bounce-back in UK and Irish arrivals

Major gateway destinations in the US are anticipating a strong rebound from the UK and Ireland in 2022 as international travel fully reopens and customers focus on familiar experiences.

Speaking at Brand USA’s Travel Week in London, NYC & Company chief executive Fred Dixon said New York was forecasting 750,000 British visitors in 2022 and was looking to “accelerate” that figure towards 2019 levels, when 1.3 million visited.

He added: “People are going to turn to destinations they know, particularly in the beginning.”

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Discover Los Angeles was even more bullish, with chief executive Adam Burke anticipating an increase on pre-pandemic numbers and predicting more than 500,000 visitors from the UK and Ireland next year.

Across California, tourism chiefs are predicting UK and Irish visitor numbers at 64% of pre-pandemic levels in 2022 and 90% in 2023. Published figures for 2018 showed just over 870,000 arrivals from the UK and Ireland.

Visit Orlando chief executive Casandra Matej said the destination was yet to set projections, but said anecdotal reports from airlines suggested forward bookings were “off the charts”, while Destination DC chief executive Elliot Ferguson said he was expecting a gradual start with momentum building once the border reopened on November 8.

Visit California chief executive Caroline Beteta said liaison had continued with airlines and trade partners to be ready for the restart.

She added: “We are pretty excited about lift. We have 72 flights spread across LA, San Francisco and San Diego and then British Airways direct to San Jose.

“We have been continuing the conversations to ensure not only that we have capacity, but that we are also filling up those planes.”

All the destination leaders predicted a strong role for the trade as customers looked for expertise and reassurance to navigate new travel rules.

Dixon said the opportunity was “an enormous boost in the arm for travel agents and tour operators”, while Burke said the pandemic had “elevated” the role of tourist boards and the trade. He added: “Travellers look to us for aspiration and information and they look to the trade to deliver on that promise.”

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