Like other European destinations, the UK is benefiting from Americans hungry to travel internationally.
American tourists are driving the UK’s recovery more than any other region, according to VisitBritain. More Americans are traveling to the UK and they are spending more than they did in 2019.
Nearly 4.6 million Americans went to the UK last year, up 2 percent from 2019. Leisure travel was the most popular reason, accounting for 48 percent of visits, followed by 29 percent visiting friends and relatives and 13 percent for business travel, according to the latest official data from the UK’s International Passenger Survey and the Office of National Statistics. The U.S. has historically been one of the UK’s biggest source markets.
American demand has bounced back fast following the pandemic. “Literally as soon as the restrictions were lifted, the Americans came straight back,” said Tracy Halliwell, director of tourism, conventions and major events at Visit London.
In contrast, the UK’s global market has not returned as quickly. Globally, Britain received 31.2 million visitors, down 24 percent from 2019.
Tour operators are seeing more demand for travel to the UK. “We’re continuously getting more demand from our agents for our UK products,” said Matt Berna, Intrepid Travel President of Americas. “We’re building out new itineraries as we speak.”
American outbound travel to Europe overall has rebounded fast. The UN World Tourism Council predicts American tourists will continue to drive Europe to its pre-pandemic level.
Americans spent a record $7.45 billion in the UK, up 42 percent from 2019, according to VisitBritain. Length of stay rose to 9 nights, a 38 percent increase from around 7 nights in 2019.
Popular European destinations have received a big boost from American spending abroad. In Paris, for example, Americans spent a record amount in the summer of 2022, said Corinne Menegaux, managing director of Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau. “When you see what Americans spent last summer, that was amazing,” Menegaux said.
VisitBritain plans to prioritize deriving more value from American tourists “Our priority now is to build on the strong recovery we have seen, tapping into the pent-up demand for travel in the US market and inspiring visitors to explore farther and stay longer on their next trip to Britain,” said Paul Gauger, VisitBritain Executive Vice President, The Americas, Australia and New Zealand.
VisitBritain forecasts Britain will host 35.1 million visitors in 2023, up 18 percent from 2022 but down 14 percent from 2019. Spending in 2023 will amount to £29.5 billion ($36 billion), up 4 percent from 2019.
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