US operators, airlines and tourist boards are preparing for a surge in holiday bookings from the UK when restrictions are lifted on transatlantic leisure travel.

Panellists at a recent Visit USA UK Association roundtable were optimistic about the return of consumer confidence and converting pent-up demand into sales.

British prime minister Boris Johnson is set to unveil the framework for the resumption of overseas travel on Monday (April 5), with May 17 as the earliest possible date for non-essential trips.

An analysis of Covid-19 vaccination and infection rates in different countries suggests the US could be among the countries that might be accessible from May 17, without the need for quarantine when travellers return to the UK.

Tracey Spuyman, chief executive at Visit USA (UK), said: “Our members, both here in the UK and in the US, are poised ready to meet the pent-up demand that has built up over the last year.

“We have seen record numbers of visitors to our website, downloads of our digital Visit USA Travel Planner and increased blog views which reinforces the message that the US continues to be a firm favourite for the UK market – especially given the success of both the UK and the US vaccination programmes.”

Kate Devereux, senior account manager at Delta Air Lines, said the first half of 2021 will be similar to 2020 but the second half of this year will herald a change.

“The second phase will begin when a significant number of the population is vaccinated not only in the UK but globally,” she said.

“There is no doubt it will lead to increase customer confidence and return to travel.”

Lesley Roberts, head of leisure sales at United Airlines, added: “The growth we are seeing is mainly for departures for later in the year and we are also seeing unprecedented demand for ’22 sales.”

Ruby Briggs, managing director at North America Travel Service, commented: “From dialogue with our customers, we know there is pent-up demand to travel to the US so we are convinced that when the announcement of the border re-opening is made, we will see a surge of bookings for immediate travel.”

Neil Jones, director at the Louisiana Office of Tourism, forecast that destinations with point-to-point non-stop flying will be the first to benefit when borders open.

“The eternal optimist in me sees ease and speed of travel as key,” he said.

“If, and it is a big if, this can happen before the autumn really arrives then there are destinations like New England that could see a late surge in fall foliage travellers.”

Tracy Thompson, sales and marketing manager at Cruise America, said she is looking forward to meeting trade partners face-to-face during sales calls and industry events when restrictions are eased.