Mixed results across Europe from the US

WTM’s UK & European Travel Report


Things are not looking quite as good for Europe out of the US this year. Results of a survey by the European Travel Commission (ETC) among its members - as reported in WTM’s UK & European Travel Report - shows some very different results from one European destination to another.
For some, the US market has really bounced back. These include several Central/East European countries, as well as France, Greece, Monaco, Switzerland, and Sweden. But US arrivals are well down to the UK and Estonia, and have stagnated in other destinations in the region.

Part of the problem in trying to decipher trends is the different methodologies used to measure demand. Official data from the Office of Travel & Tourism Industries in the US department of commerce, for example, points to a modest 2% increase in air trips to Europe in the first half of 2005 - the weakest growth to any destination region in the world from the US.

DK Shifflet & Associates` performance monitor - a reliable source of trends in the US market - is more pessimistic. DKS&A measures room nights booked and paid for by US travellers in hotel accommodation in the US and internationally. This means that, if a group of three all stay in one room to save on costs, it counts as one roomnight. And this is a trend that could well have been intensifying over the past 10 years.

Since 1995, according to DKS&A, the international share of total hotel roomnights booked has fallen from 9% to 5%, and the share has been flat since 2003. International roomnight volume has increased only by about 1.6% this year. More importantly, Europe`s share fell from 30% in 2000 to 30% last year and appears to be stagnating. And for individual countries in Europe, the trend is similar. The UK`s share is down from 10% to 7%, and that for France and Italy down from 5% to 4%. Only Germany has bucked the trend, up to 4% from 3% in 2000.

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There is more bad news in the report. Leisure travel is the only sector showing growth in the US market, according to DKS&A, and most of this is thanks to a growth in travel demand among the Generation X age group - those born between 1965 and 1980. Baby boomers, from whom expectations were so high a few years ago, have actually recorded a decline in international hotel roomnights - due to a case of ‘American Angst’.

Terrorism, the Iraq war, economic challenges, and the impact of oil price rises on household spending are just a few of the concerns plaguing potential US travellers today. Political instability, the perceived poor image of the US abroad and airline industry problems - three of the seven largest airlines in the US are in Chapter 11 bankruptcy-protection - have compounded the problems.
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