Downturn in US bookings to Britain defies inbound boom

Downturn in US bookings to Britain defies inbound boom

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The UK may have attracted record visitor numbers in 2014 but bookings among the highest-spending visitors this year are down.

Travel booking data-analyst ForwardKeys reports long-haul bookings to the UK in January down 2.9% on the same month last year.

ForwardKeys crunches airline booking data from all the major global distribution systems (GDSs) including those dominating such markets as China and Japan.

The company reports “a slight upturn” of 0.9% in forward bookings for arrivals to the UK in February and March, but points out this is for travel that has not yet taken place.

January saw falls in several markets, most notably the US - the UK’s most-important source market - where booking numbers were down 3.1% year on year.

Bookings from Hong Kong and China were substantially down, most likely due to the timing of the Chinese New Year, but February and March show significant improvement year on year from both countries - with bookings from China up 64% and Hong Kong up 32%.

However, ForwardKeys notes: “The all-important US market, which is bigger than Australia, Canada, China, Japan and India put together, still shows a 3.1% lag [for February and March].”

It reports that France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and even Switzerland “all show signs of robust growth throughout the first quarter”.

ForwardKeys chief executive Olivier Jager said: “A major problem for the UK is a substantial loss in market share of visitors from the USA, its most important market. 

“Last year, growth from the USA was 3.6% up but the outbound US market to Western Europe grew 5.4% and the loss of share shows no sign of stopping.”

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