Serendipity seems to be the word to describe Orlando and its place among USA destinations favored by British travelers. Long the No. 1 long-haul overseas destination of UK visitors and UK families, in particular, because of its range of hotel inventory, theme parks, family restaurant options and other attractions, Orlando is positioned to benefit from a confluence of a series of factors that no marketing guru could have predicted five years ago, when the number of travelers from the UK to the USA had fallen off by 20 percent or more. And now, there are the following factors, all coming together within a one-month window:
- In a little more than three weeks (May 30-June 3), Orlando is hosting ipw;
- As of last Friday, May 1st, the government-imposed Air Passenger Duty (APD) for children under 12 traveling from the UK is eliminated, reducing the cost of travel to the USA by £71/$107 per child (an APD remains in force for those traveling in costlier classes);
- An intense marketing and promotional campaign by UK-based Merlin Entertainments for its new I-Drive 360 collection of attractions in Orlando (the Orlando Eye, a larger version of the London Eye, a Madame Tussauds museum; and a Sea Life aquarium) is generating huge interest in the market;
- Lift capacity between the UK and Orlando (many flights are charters provided by tour operators) continues to increase—last month, budget carrier Norwegian started serving Orlando from Gatwick; and
- The destination is fortifying its position as the destination with the most options for shopping (the number one activity for Brits while traveling) with the announcement that the Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores, one of the Orlando area’s first outlet malls, has plans to expand their existing outlet center by a third.
Of all of the above, nothing has captured the attention of the British traveler as much as the elimination of the APD for children—largely because the tour and travel industry, include the travel trade media, has been so focused on the issue, which is so easily translatable to the consumer. Begun in 1994 as a measure to create a revenue source for funding environmental activity, it quickly became a source of easy revenue for budget balancing.
Then, In 2013 a study by PwC, “The Economic Impact of Air Passenger Duty,” found that abolition of APD could provide an initial short-term boost to the level of UK GDP of around 0.45 percent in the first 12 months, averaging at just under 0.3 percent a year between 2013 and 2015. This and other findings inspired the industry into full battle mode, and in another year (last year), the government announced a simplification of the APD and the elimination of the APD for children under 12 on economy flights operating out of the UK. Next March, the APD abolition will be extended to children under the age of 16—for all flights.