Atlantic Crossing

The USA is on course to welcome more than five million UK visitors a year by 2024 as visitors rush back across the Atlantic to banish the pandemic blues...

Destinations across the USA are bracing for a rush of British visitors in 2023.

Tom Garzilli, Chief Marketing Officer for Brand USA, is certainly upbeat about prospects, saying: “The UK is the number one source of international overseas visitors for us, with almost three million travellers as of October (2022) and over five million projected visitors by 2024.”

He adds: “One of the big factors for people returning to the US is the incredible culinary scene and there are so many foodie experiences for travellers to enjoy next year, from the renaissance of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail to the inaugural Louisiana Food & Wine Festival hosted in Lake Charles in September 2023.”

Flight paths

A slew of new flights and increases on existing services will help achieve this. Among them, British Airways will begin a new year-round service from London Heathrow to Cincinnati in June, with up to five flights a week. It is also resuming direct flights from London Gatwick to Las Vegas in March, with three flights a week augmenting its daily service from Heathrow.

In addition, it is stepping up flights on services to Portland, Pittsburgh and New York’s JFK airport.

March will see Delta bring back its Heathrow-Los Angeles service for the first time since 2015, followed by seasonal services from Gatwick to JFK in April and Edinburgh to Atlanta in May, a route not operated since 2007.

Aer Lingus will add its 15th U.S. route in May, serving Cleveland from Dublin.
Virgin Atlantic is also boosting its U.S. services in 2023 with extra flights on its routes to Miami and JFK. In late 2022, United added a new Heathrow-Boston link and upped its Gatwick-JFK service.

New attractions

usa disney

UK visitors will find many new attractions, hotels and other developments across the country in 2023.

Super Nintendo World comes to Universal Studios Hollywood in February.
It will feature the signature Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge interactive ride combining augmented reality with projection mapping technology.

Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration continues until the end of March, featuring Mickey’s Celebration Cavalcade parade along Main Street USA.

Disney will also be adding new attractions in 2023, including the Tron Lightcycle Run ride at the Magic Kingdom in spring and interactive trail Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana within EPCOT’s World Nature neighbourhood in late 2023.

The Las Vegas Strip will form part of the street circuit for the third Formula 1 race of the year in the U.S. when the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix takes place in November, following the Miami Grand Prix and the United States Grand Prix in Texas.

Mid-2023 is when high-speed rail service Brightline is due to start whisking passengers from Miami to Orlando in just three hours, once construction of Orlando International Airport station is complete.

Solar eclipses

Nature will be putting on its own spectacular displays in the next 15 months, with not one but two solar eclipses visible from the U.S.

On October 14, an annular eclipse (where the moon passes in front of the sun, creating a ring of fire effect) will be visible within about a 125-mile-wide path from Oregon to Texas. That will be a precursor to a total eclipse on April 8, 2024, which will darken skies in a 115-mile-wide swathe north-east from Texas to Maine.

Tour operators are already offering tailor-made trips for the 2024 eclipse.
Key anniversaries in 2023 include Warner Bros’ centenary. Starting in February, the Warner Bros Studio Tour Hollywood will have a special 100th anniversary exhibit as part of the tour, Disney also turns 100 and will mark its founding in October 1923 with a series of events as part of its Disney 100 Years of Wonder celebrations.

Looking good

usa road

U.S. destinations are confident about the year ahead. “Overall the outlook is positive,” says Jim Odoire, Director and Head of Travel Trade for Black Diamond, which represents Arizona, California, Colorado and other destinations in the UK.

“Airlift is almost back to pre-pandemic levels and tour operators are reporting strong bookings. The current economic situation does not seem to be dissuading people from travelling and holidays still seem to be a priority when it comes to discretionary spending.”

Odoire notes that although booking lead times are generally shorter, people realise they have to book early for popular destinations and are also staying longer.

Road trips are back again as car rental prices are coming down to normal levels.

There is also increased interest to wilderness destinations, mountains, deserts, national parks and dark sky locations.

TTM which represents Louisiana, North Carolina, Discover New England, Travel South, Tennessee, Massachusetts and West Virginia is equally positive.

Director Neil Jones, said: “We’ve been excited to see flight schedules returning and a number of new routes added as well.”

Jones adds that events in 2023 are proving booking hooks “because people are still making up for the lost years of the pandemic”. These include legacy events such as Mardi Gras, Fiesta and July Fourth celebrations but also smaller, local events and festivals across the U.S.

“This year, North Carolina will have several special events and races to mark the 75th anniversary of NASCAR. In Tupelo, it is the 25th anniversary of their Elvis festival and in New Hampshire, Portsmouth and Dover are celebrating their 400th anniversaries.”

Andy Facer, whose agency 5F Marketing represents Alabama in the UK, says:

“I would say that for most tour operators, business is almost back to pre-pandemic levels, and there is optimism for 2023. We are also hopeful that 2023 will be the year that Amtrak services are re-launched from Mobile to New Orleans.”

Tour operators

USA specialist tour operators are anticipating a good 2023, too.

Ruby Briggs, Managing Director for North America Travel Service (NATS), says: “Our client base is mainly high-spend travellers; therefore the current economic climate isn’t really impacting them.”

Briggs says demand is still strong for south-west states California, Arizona and Nevada, but NATS is booking more city breaks than it did pre-Covid.

“City breaks were typically something people would put together themselves, but the feedback is that they would prefer to have the total protection that a tour operator/ATOL bonding provides them.”

Over the past year, the operator has added “a significant number” of new tours and products including fly-drive itineraries and escorted tours in 2023 and 2024, as well as developing an Experience and Explore section featuring sightseeing tours. Walking and foodie tours will be added soon.

America As You Like It also has several fresh offerings, including a new California itinerary, a Great River Road fly-drive and another in Alabama, with a new Pennsylvania brochure coming soon.

Managing Director Maggi Smit says: “Most people are doing fly-drives. The deep south is selling particularly well: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, North and South Carolina. Beach holidays are also popular.”