Exhibitors from the United States and Canada are moving to a new location next year at ITB Berlin, which will occupy more than half of Hall 2.1, “thereby making it the largest North American and US participation since 2001,” according to Björn Bieneck from B-FOR International, organisers of the Discover America Pavilion.
This new-found enthusiasm of US companies and organisations, exhibiting at ITB 2007 for the first time under the new Discover America brand created by the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA), clearly demonstrates that the USA is back in business, eager to welcome international visitors after a long period of fairly stagnant growth and declining market share. The USA’s share of world receipts fell from 17.9% in 1993 to 12.0% in 2005, while its share of arrivals dropped from a high of 9.4% in 1992 to 6.1% last year.
Although 2005 marked the start of the USA’s recovery in inbound tourism, with international arrivals up 7% over the previous year, the total 49 million arrivals achieved fell well short of the country’s 51.2 million peak achieved in 2000.
However, as TIA’s Laura Mandala reported at the recent Pisa Forum, an annual meeting between world tourism experts organized by IPK International and sponsored by ITB Berlin, the US Department of Commerce (DOC) is expecting a record 2006 - both in terms of international arrivals and tourism receipts. “And in 2007,” said Ms Mandala, “the USA is projected to host more than 54 million international visitors, generating US$113 billion in exports.”
US inbound tourism performance varies sharply from one source market and region to another. While arrivals from Canada rose by 7% in the first eight months of 2006, and Mexican arrivals (to the US interior only) increased by a massive 26%, overseas markets were still down (-1%) on the same period in 2005. Some markets are nonetheless showing very impressive growth, including Brazil, China, South Korea and Australia.
Experts gathered in Pisa also agreed that, despite a fall-off in demand as a result of increased security measures and confusion over visa and passport requirements, the USA still ranks well up the list of international tourists’ aspirational destinations. In addition, the weak US dollar has boosted demand in the past couple of months, with a record number of Europeans heading to the USA for pre-Christmas shopping, for example. It is therefore hardly surprising that the US DOT expects visitors from Europe to generate a 4 per cent annual growth from 2005 to 2010 and grow by 25 percent over this five-year period to reach 13 million arrivals by the end of the decade.
Most US exhibitors from this year’s ITB are returning in 2007, says Björn Bieneck - many with bigger booths and more co-exhibitors. The need to improve the USA’s image among international travellers has resulted in increased budgets for international marketing, enabling them to attend ITB. Among exhibitors who are upgrading their ITB presence are states such as Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah. Tourism to New Orleans is rebounding after the devastation of hurricane Katrina, and at ITB 2007 Louisiana will share its success story with the media and trade and public visitors.
Among other exhibitors from the USA, the US Government will demonstrate its US-VISIT programme to show potential travellers that the US immigration process is as simple as ever. The Rocky Mountain states will show what they have to offer in terms of breathtaking nature and adventure activities, as well as genuine Western culture and hospitality. And many airlines, including British Airways, will tell ITB 2007 visitors about their improved US services, which are becoming more and more attractive in terms of price, more convenient and more direct - to more US cities.