It is unclear which is the most important variable of three—Donald Trump as U.S. president, the post-Brexit impact, or the weak British pound sterling—is affecting outbound travel from the UK but. no matter what, it seems that the latest data on travel to North America by UK residents indicates that it is going nowhere. That is “nowhere” as in a zero percent change in the number of departures to North America (about 90 percent of the total is traffic to the USA) in April 2017 vs. April 2016.
What makes the figures for April 2017, as just reported by the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS), significant is that they are the first monthly numbers that would reflect the impact on bookings of Donald Trump’s presidency, which began on Jan. 20, 2017, because January-into-February is the period during which travelers from many country markets, including the UK, make holiday plans.
Here are some highlights from latest ONS release:
- April 2017: UK departures to North America were 360,000 (vs. 359,000 in April 2016) = Zero percent change (Overall, UK residents made 6.1 million visits abroad in April 2017—just 2 percent more than in April 2016.)
- Latest three months: 840,000 (vs. 804,000 in 2016) = Up 4 percent
- Year to date for 2017: 1,070,000 (vs. 1,093,000 YTD in 2016) = Down 2 percent
- Latest 12 months (May thru April): 4,110 (vs. 4,100,000) = Zero percent change
The following table, which covers a five-year window of travel activity to North America by Britons, helps to put the April numbers into perspective.
So, what’s the Outlook? The data above might suggest that the only variable that is new to the mix of those that have an impact on UK travel to the United States is the presidency of Donald Trump—something that caused Graham McKenzie, a veteran UK travel journalist to speculate upon when he closed out a column he wrote for TravelMole about the recent IPW in Washington, DC. Said McKenzie: “If one thing or one person dominated IPW17 it was President Trump. His travel ban efforts, his stated intent to get rid of Brand USA and his ability to tweet at the most inappropriate times (like a matter of hours after the London Bridge incident) does absolutely nothing to encourage visitors to the USA … Will people still travel to the USA? Of course, they will but the numbers may not improve until November 2020.”