While it may not be the best of times for staging the annual World Travel Market, it is not the worst of times, either. Operators and U.S.-based receptive and suppliers who gather on the exhibit floor of London’s Excel for four days beginning Nov. 2, will be finalizing business for next year in an environment in which the pluses weigh a little more than the minuses.
— As the Queen told Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, “Here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place.” Because of inflation and an economy that suffered more than that of most nations during the 2008-09 economic recession, income levels for the UK’s traveling middle class have remained flat for a decade.
— While year-on-year outbound travel totals have increased, the main beneficiaries of the increase have been European and short-haul destinations, not long-haul U.S. destinations.
—The growth and the recovery of the UK inbound market is, by nearly all accounts in the trade and consumer news outlets, inching along at a modest rate and should continue to do so.
— Despite the tilt to close-in holiday travel, a strong majority of vacationing Brits seem to have sworn off travel to the Middle East and Muslim countries (a horrible terrorist attack last June at a Tunisian beach resort resulted in the murder of 30 UK holidaymakers); because the USA is perceived as a safe destination, schadenfreude creates an opening for U.S. destinations.
The exchange rate, which has seen the Euro suffer substantially vs. the U.S. dollar, should not be a factor. The British pound sterling opened at $1.58 this week, down from just under $1.61 a year ago—a decline of less than two percent.
Some Just-Released Numbers: Adapting the expression accordingly, arrivals from the UK to North America continue to centimeter along, according to the latest departures data released by the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS). The statistics agency said in its latest release that visits abroad by UK residents during Quarter 2 April to June 2015 increased by 7.7 percent to 18.0 million compared with Quarter 2 April to June 2014. For North America, the percentage increase was slightly lower (+ 6 percent), likely the result of a stronger U.S. dollar vs. the Canadian loonie.
At the same time, visits to European destinations by UK travelers increased by more than a million in the second quarter of 2015 vs. the second quarter of 2014, reported ONS—an increase of a little more than 8 percent, with British travelers taking advantage of a weaker euro. The Inbound Report has put the latest ONS report into perspective in the following tables (for the most part, the figures have been seasonally adjusted), which show that the numbers are still lower than they work a decade ago. Keep in mind that visits to the USA comprise about 80 percent, or more, of the totals listed here.
A 10-Year Perspective
UK Visits to North America
2005 through 2014
|Year||Number of Visits (000s)||Percentage change|
|Source: UK Office for National Statistics|