Visiting the USA

By | Category: Travel destinations, Travel rumblings

Newly published data shows that, up until the end of November, there are still fewer of us going to the US than in 2009. But it is only down by 1%, which isn’t a lot in the scheme of things. Compared to South Korea whose visiter numbers to the US are up by over 50% it does make a difference. Why are we reluctant when traditionally it has been one of the big destinations for Brits?
The US Office of Travel & Tourism Industries (OTTI) has some suggestions from the research that has been carried out as to why this may be so. The first is that Britons are seeking value for money. Accommodation prices have risen as hoteliers have sought to increase their profits and that is an issue along with the exchange rate. (which is getting better now than when the research was conducted) There are other issues that apparently are deterring us from considering the US as a destination. One is the hassle of filling in the ESTA form online. Another is the entry and exit requirements and the third is the length of time and complexity of obtaining visas.
There is one final issue that the research found and this is one that all destinations face. Rival destinations are out there promoting their delights on TV, online, at cinemas and on big poster sites not to mention travel programmes. Look at the way that Australia milked the visit of Oprah Winfrey last December. When a celebrity makes a travel programme – and lots seem to want to be the Michael Palin’s of the moment – that tends to attract us to their countries. So should America commission say, Posh & Becks, to show us “cool” America! What doesn’t seem to appear in the research is the effect of APD, Air Passenger Duty, which you might have expected to deter some people since it has jumped twice in the last two years.
Despite all this gloom, the majority of those polled were forecasting a recovery in 2011. Personally, I would have thought a 1% decline to be rather an achievement given APD, a quite substantial increase in air fares and the pound rate against the dollar. We haven’t also had much coverage yet of the big tourist event that will hit the US this year, the 150th anniversary of the start of their civil war. Places like Virginia, Washington DC and Georgia could be big draws this year.

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