- by travelpulse
- 07 Dec 2022
November 8 is the anniversary of the U.S. opening its borders to international travelers. A year later, says Christopher Thompson, CEO of Brand USA, "the overall story is really positive."
Brand USA is the nation's public-private partnership dedicated to increasing international visitation to the U.S through marketing and promotional efforts. The recovery in international visitation, he said, is outpacing what prognosticators had anticipated.
Interviews with Thompson and the leaders of three major destination management organizations (DMOs) revealed an optimistic outlook going forward, but one that will require a lot of work in ensuring that travelers globally maintain their long-held interest in a holiday in the U.S. in the face of global headwinds like the strong dollar.
In 2019, Thompson said there were 80 million international visitors to the U.S., half from Canada and Mexico combined, which will remain the largest source markets. The United Kingdom and Europe, the next most important sources of travelers, said Thompson, are looking strong despite economic uncertainties.
Brand USA recently held its Travel Week U.K. and Europe marketplace event in Frankfurt, including meetings with travel trade and media, and the forecast there was that 2023 numbers would exceed those of 2019. That demonstrated, said Thompson, how strong the recovery has been and how resilient travel is. He said the excitement among buyers and suppliers in Europe at Travel Week was "palpable" - like nothing he has ever seen.
Tourism leaders "are well aware of the headwinds faced by the industry, not least of which are inflation, currency exchanges, the war in Ukraine and workforce issues," Thompson said. Countering all that, he said, is that the U.S. "is one of the most aspirational destinations in the world." He said demand is not a problem because pent-up demand is why the industry is seeing a faster return of travelers than had been thought. It was originally projected that it would take until 2025 to reach 2019 numbers but now he thinks it may happen in 2023.
What the U.S. has to offer, said Thompson, is its diversity in geography, experiences and in the people delivering those experiences to visitors. That appeal, he said, added to the fact that the pandemic has moved travel from "nice to do" to "need to do," "allows us to spread our wings and provide growth opportunities to many places within the U.S."