According to the US Department of Commerce-sponsored United Kingdom Travel Trade Barometer, United Kingdom bookings to the United States ended 2009 on a low, leading the trend of declines registered from other countries in 2009. United Kingdom tour operators reported that 2009 bookings were down 10 to 15 percent, on average, compared to 2008 (as of January 25 – March 3, 2010). Most concerning, 16 percent of the trade reported bookings decreased 16 to 20 percent year-over-year.
For the first quarter 2010, United Kingdom tour operators (two-fifths of the trade) projected that bookings to the United States would be about the same as in the first quarter 2009. At the same time, approximately one-fifth of the trade projected higher bookings in the first quarter 2010 compared to the same period in 2009. In contrast, three-in-ten of the trade still projected lower (26 percent) and much lower (five percent) bookings.
United Kingdom bookings for the second quarter 2010 (at the time of the January/March 2010 survey) were projected to be about the same as the second quarter 2009. During this quarter, 52 percent of the trade projected bookings to be flat. In contrast, just over one quarter (26 percent) of the trade still projected lower (21 percent) and much lower (five percent) bookings for the second quarter, compared to last year. Approximately 16 percent of the trade projected second quarter 2010 bookings to be higher.
In the next six months, the top three factors rated as motivators for bookings to the United States were accommodation rates, the exchange rate to the US dollar, and airfares. The primary barriers for travel to the United States were reported to be competitive promotion by other long-haul destinations, visa processing time, and the United Kingdom economy.
Actual 2009 arrivals from the United Kingdom totaled 3.9 million, decreasing 15 percent when compared to 2008. Fourth quarter 2009 arrivals from the United Kingdom totaled 993,000, down 11 percent compared to fourth quarter 2008. In October 2009, United Kingdom arrivals totaled 403,000, down eight percent when compared to October 2008. Visitation slowed in November 2009, totaling only 274,000, decreasing 16 percent when compared to November 2008. In December 2009, arrivals from the United Kingdom were 317,000, down 11 percent when compared to December 2008.