With a growing desire for visiting friends and family (VFR) travellers to reconnect with loved ones, the US tourism industry looks set to benefit from the arrival of UK tourists.

VFR travel likely to lead travel recovery

VFR travellers are likely to lead demand in the immediate travel recovery phase. The US is set to benefit as it reopens to vaccinated tourists from the UK as loved ones are keen to reconnect. In March 2020, travel restrictions in the US came into force with many families facing separation from loved ones. In 2019, UK VFR travel accounted for over 20.6 million international departures making it the second most popular purpose of international travel behind only leisure. Covid-19 catalysed a major decline in international travel globally, and VFR travel experienced a 72.1% fall from 2019 levels in 2020. As travel restrictions begin to ease, pent-up travel demand will be unlocked. VFR travel between the UK and the US is set to underpin recovery for those seeking reconnection after months of separation. Between 2021 and 2024, GlobalData forecasts show outbound travel from the UK for VFR purposes will increase at a marginally greater pace than leisure, showing a CAGR of 18.1% versus 17.9% for leisure.

End of deterrent from travelling for UK consumers

A total of 58% of global respondents in a GlobalData poll* revealed that quarantine requirements were the largest deterrent for international travel with a further 55% of respondents saying they would be deterred by travel restrictions.

This sentiment is likely to change with the easing of travel restrictions and quarantine requirements. With fewer restrictions on entry to the US for UK travellers, it bodes well for those willing to venture abroad. The US has long been a popular destination for UK tourists and GlobalData analysis shows that the US was the fifth most popular international destination in 2019. With restrictions easing it is likely to release pent-up demand and provide much needed revenue for travel companies.

Following the announcement, many airlines were reporting surges in bookings as pent-up demand for travel to the US was released. Direct flights are set to benefit as travellers seek the most convenient travel options.

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UK based airlines, including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, have reported surges in demand for flights to the US. Carriers operating between these markets are in a beneficial position to generate much-needed revenue and an increase in flight frequency is likely to occur. Direct flights will likely be favoured by travellers as they allow for a perceivably safer experience than connecting via a hub. The announcement has given operators between the two countries a glimmer of hope. Marketing efforts should focus on reconnecting loved ones who have long been separated since the start of the pandemic and have a more pressing need for travel.

* GlobalData poll, 1,361 respondents, ended on 18 May 2021.