UK's Status As Most Visited Destination for US Tourists in Europe is Threatened by Mandatory Quarantine

Graph - Top reasons detering travelers - Source Globaldata
Top reasons detering travelers

The UK’s status as the most visited destination for US tourists in Europe is threatened by the mandatory quarantine on arrival. The list of European destinations now allowing US tourists to travel without quarantine is growing, meaning other European hotspots could prove to be more desirable in the short term, says GlobalData.

Johanna Bonhill-Smith, Travel & Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “News of a transatlantic air bubble or ‘travel corridor’ between the UK and the US has long been rumored. What remains clear is that the longer it is delayed, the greater risk of US tourists opting to holiday elsewhere across Europe in 2021 and into 2022.”

One of the main factors that is curbing travel demand in 2021 is quarantine. A GlobalData poll found that quarantine restrictions were the primary deterrent for traveling during this pandemic*.

Another poll found that willingness to traveling to a different continent is high**. There is higher demand for domestic trips but 37% of respondents desired to travel to a different continent, likely opting for a change of scenery after increased time spent at home during the past year.

Paying for quarantine creates extra costs related to accommodation and additional testing if required. GlobalData’s Q1 2021 consumer survey found that 53% of US respondents stated they had cut budgets in the last year due to financial constraints***. Demand for transatlantic travel may be high, but tourists are likely to avoid additional costs if possible. This is an area in which the UK may fall short, but other European hotspots such as Italy, Germany and France may prosper. These destinations have lifted mandatory quarantine requirements for inbound US tourists subject to other measures such as vaccination certificates and negative test results.

Bonhill-Smith adds: “Europe typically attracts US visitors with its vast range of experiences related to history, culture, art, and nature. Historically, the UK has been the most popular European travel destination for US tourists. In 2019 (the last ‘normal’ tourism year), 27% of total US international departures were to Europe and the UK received 4.4 million of those departures (12.7% of total US departures to Europe).

“Other European destinations such as France, Italy, Spain and Germany are inherently popular with US travelers. Sun and beach getaways, adventure experiences and city breaks were typically the most sought-after holidays by US respondents in GlobalData’s Q3 2019 consumer survey****. These holiday experiences heavily feature across Europe and therefore explain its popularity with this source market.”

International arrivals from the US to Europe decreased by 75% year-over-year (YoY) in 2020, due to international travel restrictions and respective border closures because of the pandemic. Out of the top five European hotspots for US tourists, the UK experienced one of the largest declines in US visitation (-76% YoY) more than other destinations such as France (-64.9% YoY) and Italy (-64.2% YoY) in 2020.

Bonhill-Smith concludes: “The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on transatlantic travel are well-known to be catastrophic, but strict protocols in the UK may further delay recovery.”