Visit England Responds to Olympic Torch Relay

19 May 2011



America remains a key market for British tourism

·  The US remains by far our most valuable inbound market – American visitors spent £2.1 billion in 2010

·  In 2010 there were just under 2.7 million visits to the UK by US residents, down from its peak of 4.1 million visits in 2000

·  45,000 passenger aircraft departures from the USA heading to the UK, representing a seat capacity of 11.2 million

On the day President Obama visits the UK, national tourism agency, VisitBritain releases new figures which cement America’s position as one of the most important markets for British inbound tourism.

In 2010 there were just under 2.7 million visits to the UK by US residents, sitting third behind France and Germany respectively. But the US by far maintains its top spot in terms of market value for inbound tourism, worth £2.1bn in 2010- nearly double that of the Germans in second place.

Although the figures remain high, there are challenges which need to be tackled. Inbound tourism from the USA has declined over the past decade. It peaked in 2000, when there were 4.1 million visits. The US now ranks third in terms of arrivals but it was positioned first continuously from 1998 to 2007. Both traditional European competitor destinations and emerging destinations in Asia are increasingly competing with the UK’s share of the American market.

Recapturing this market is a priority for VisitBritain, .A  four-year £100million marketing programme, taking advantage of the recent Royal Wedding, and next year’s Diamond Jubilee and 2012 Games, looks to revitalise Britain’s appeal in this core market and encourage Americans to visit now to join in the mood of celebration. Feedback from VisitBritain’s travel industry panels in the US in early 2011 have been positive, with increased bookings, and more capacity on air routes to the UK.

In general, US visitors are familiar with Britain, and perceptions of the ‘Britain Brand’ are consistently positive among potential US visitors, ranking the UK 6th out of 50 on ‘Tourism’ dimensions.

Some of the main barriers to travel to Britain largely revolve around logistical dynamics such as not having a passport, a lack of annual leave, financial concerns and not wanting to fly long distances. Americans rate ‘taking foreign vacations’ as a lower priority than ‘taking vacations in my own country’ (9th versus 16th out of 17 options in the Nation’s Brand Index, NBI)

Cost is an important factor in holiday decisions. When asked to rate the expected expensiveness of a one-week holiday in the 2010 NBI survey (including the cost of getting there) Americans rated Britain as less expensive than both France and Italy, however on a scale of 1 to 7 where 1 – not at all expensive and 7 = extremely expensive Britain was rated with a score of 5.3.

Patricia Yates, Director of Strategy and Communications at VisitBritain said: “The challenge now is to rebuild visitor numbers to the high point of 2000. While just 33% of the US population have a passport, Americans who come to Britain once, tend to come again – over half of US holiday visitors to the UK are repeat visitors. We know that perceptions of Britain are consistently strong – we need to change those positive perceptions into a trip here.”



For further information, please contact:

Mark Di-Toro, Corporate Press Officer on 020 7578 1098 or 07919 392 137



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