Brits not waiting for January 17th to book their holidays. “The third Monday in January (or Blue Monday) is a date often touted as harboring particularly low spirits in the UK, as Christmas spending, short days and cold temperatures dent British cheer.” So says a post on the website of London-based Simplexity Travel Management, explaining, “but the time is also known as an important yearly turning point in the travel industry. The idea is that the third week of January marks the point when fed up holiday-makers have had enough of the UK’s cold weather and start booking spring and summer vacations.”
In ordinary years, such an assessment might have a following, but as 2021 rolls in 2022, it has little meaning for scores of thousands of Britons who are already celebrating and booking flights and packages in recognition of the reopening of long-haul travel and, specifically, travel to the warmth of Central Florida.
It has been a challenge for INBOUND and for other journals that follow and cover the business of inbound travel to the United States from the United Kingdom, which is the largest overseas source market for international travelers from the UK. The reason is that consumers simply did not want to wait another day, another month or another season of leisure travel, which they have been unable to enjoy for more than a year-and-a-half, due to the global pandemic wrought by the COVID-19 virus, which brought travel to a crunching halt.
And now we are experiencing a hectic recovery. But as hectic as it has been since the lifting of the de facto travel ban to the United States for COVID-vaccinated travelers from the UK, most of the EU and some other countries, it could have been less manageable had the U.S. government simply ended the ban on September 20th, when it was first announced. The seven-week period from then to November 8th gave airlines the opportunity to re-start familiar routes and reactivate staff, and for others in the distribute chain time to update their itineraries and have staff in place to handle calls as well as face-to-face and in-store meetings with clients.
The seven-week interregnum from Sept 20 to Nov. 8 also enabled U.S. travel suppliers time to “re-up” staff and have old and new tour guides and other support personnel in place. It has been obvious, however, that the travel and tourism industry, is sorely in need of additional employees as it deals with this recovery.
The numbers tell us that it doesn’t look like it’s going to cool off for a while. Why? First, and something we all witnessed throughout the darkest days of the pandemic is survey after survey showed that, even when there were declines among those Brits who intended to travel, Brits stubbornly held to the conviction that there just might be time to take a holiday this year and, if not, perhaps early next year.
The return of travel has only further whetted their thirst for travel. And for many Brits, a USA holiday seems to be just the right tonic. Consider the following findings from several recent UK surveys.
● According to new research from ABTA, the UK travel trade association:
—Pent-up demand makes US second most popular destination among Brits
—Nearly one in five (18 percent) Brits planning to travel abroad in the next 12 months want to visit the U.S., according to ABTA research.
—The U.S. was the second most-popular destination among Brits before the pandemic, but was overtaken last year by France, when the US borders were closed. Spain remains number one for Brits.
—Said ABTA Chief Executive Mark Tanzer: “British holidaymakers are now able to enjoy a long-anticipated break in the USA again. The reopening of travel to the U.S. is a very welcome development.” He added, “The USA is currently the second most popular destination on holidaymakers’ wish list for the next year. Pre-pandemic figures show that 4.8 million UK travelers visited the destination in 2019.”
● A Travel Weekly article that focused on U.S. tour operators who specialize in U.S. product reported continued strong forward and short-term demand.
●On the Monday before last, reported Olly Brendon, chief executive of ATD Travel Services, bookings were 40 percent higher than average for November as travel to the US restarted, with Orlando and the West Coast particularly strong.
● Ocean Holidays co-chief executive Harry Hastings said inquiries were up 20 percent week-on-week following a sharp upturn in October, when business returned to pre-pandemic levels.
● Nick Hughes sales director of Gold Medal, told Travel Weekly that U.S. sales had largely driven the company’s strongest sales month since the start of the pandemic in October. He indicated that said the majority of US bookings were for 2022 but there were “a lot of enquires” from agents for December travel and Christmas breaks.
—He added, “Florida has regained its top spot as our most in-demand destination, with the majority of bookings for travel next summer – although so far in November, we’re also receiving a lot of enquiries from agents whose customers want to get over the pond in December. Christmas shopping breaks are doing really well.”
● The Advantage Travel Partnership said both leisure and business bookings to the U.S. had increased.
● New research from Holiday Extras found that the United States is the long-haul destination topping the bucket lists of British travelers. When asked which long haul destination travelers would like to return to first:
—Almost a quarter (23 percent) of Britons put the United States over trips to The Caribbean (14 percent), The Maldives (13 percent), Australia (11 percent) and New Zealand (7%).
—New York City (14 percent) also topped the list of cities holidaymakers missed traveling to the most while restrictions were in place, beating popular European destinations including Paris (13 percent), Barcelona (10 percent) and Rome (9 percent).
—Holiday Extras’ own booking data confirms the results, as the US is currently its second most booked destination – highlighting the pent-up demand to go stateside that has been building whilst borders were closed.
● Over the past weekend, the TTG Travel Agent Tracker showed that more than 99 percent of agents received new holiday enquiries during the previous two weeks– the highest level since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
—Virtually all agents said they had received at least one enquiry during the two weeks to 12 November, a record high since the Tracker was first launched in April 2020.
—Some 59 percent of agents said they had received enquiries for the U.S. and Canada … up from 55 percent from in the previous Tracker survey, region ranking only behind the Mediterranean in popularity.