UK-US market on track to exceed pre-pandemic levels by 2025

The UK market to the US is on track to recover to pre-pandemic levels by 2025, according to the outgoing boss of the country’s tourism marketing organisation.

Speaking at the IPW conference in Los Angeles, Brand USA chief executive Chris Thompson said he was confident ongoing headwinds could be overcome, with UK-US airlift surpassing 2019 capacity in 2023.

Data released in April indicates the UK market is currently tracking ahead of 2023 and 9.5% down on March 2019, with a full recovery projected for 2025.

Thompson, who steps down from his role this year, said: “We are full guns blazing for the first time since the pandemic, and I think we are in an incredibly strong position, both as a destination and as an organisation.

“I have full confidence that the UK market will recover next year – the numbers are telling us that and our market is telling us that.”

He added: “Of course there are headwinds, but I am fully confident we will overcome them.”

The UK remains the top overseas destination to the US, behind only Canada and Mexico, with 248 flights from the UK connecting to 31 destinations.

Thompson predicted the US would surpass a government-set target of 90 million international visitors per year by 2026, a year ahead of a five-year schedule set in 2022.

And he also reiterated Brand USA’s commitment to the travel trade, pointing to a “refreshed and modernised” USA Discovery Program and plans to continue to develop its agent Megafams.

Marketing focuses for the coming years include World Pride in Washington DC in 2025, the centennial of Route 66, the football World Cup and 250th anniversary of the US being created in 2026, and the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Brand USA is also continuing to promote its Road Trips USA campaign, which Thompson said was “driving more travel to destinations outside the gateway cities and boosting small and minority-owned businesses”.

Fred Dixon, current chief executive of New York’s tourist board, is due to succeed Thompson in July, with Thompson remaining in an advisory role until September.

Dixon told the IPW conference: “We owe Chris a debt of gratitude and I couldn’t be more proud, humbled and excited about the opportunity ahead of us.

“Our collective work requires a true partnership to work and I look forward to working with our public and private partners to achieve our goals.”

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