US tourists bucking currency trend

The largest market for inbound tourism to Europe is the USA, which represents an annual spend of $40bn and while the US dollar is at its weakest against both Sterling and the euro for fifteen years, demand has shown itself to be surprisingly resilient. These findings are to be discussed at Global European Marketplace. Tom Jenkins, Executive Director of the event’s organiser, the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) said: “We normally expect demand for Europe to track currency fluctuations. A strong dollar normally sees a surge in demand, a weak dollar a drop. Indeed the collapse in demand for Europe from America in 2003 probably had more to do with the state of the currency than reaction to 9/11.

What is surprising is that the connection between currency and demand has not been absolute. Since 2003 we have seen consistent growth in European arrivals from the US, despite a decline in the value of the dollar. If we were to have another return to the dollar’s historic levels against European currencies, demand from the US could become overwhelming. However, if the slide continues and an adverse event takes place, such as a terrorism strike, demand could suddenly dry up.

It is worth noting that during the late 1990’s the growth from America delivered an additional million visitors per year - substantially more than the total number of visitors from China”.

Because of its evident importance, the US market will be the main subject of the morning session of the ETOA conference at the Global European Marketplace (GEM) on November 9th at Earls Court, London. There will be a short presentation on how to identify promising origin markets, given by David Edwards, Head of Statistics, Visit Britain and Simon Carkeek, Executive Director, Eye4Travel, will unveil new research in to the behaviour of the American consumer online.

The main discussion will take place between Arnie Weissmann, Editor in Chief, Travel Weekly US and William Maloney CEO, American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA). They will reflect on the developments in travel distribution in the USA and forecast what is likely to happen in the future. They will address several questions, including:
- Will travel agents continue to be relevant?
- Is the internet a threat to their existence or can it be used to help a distribution channel that still sells the most expensive packages?
- The internet appears to be empowering consumers: is this a threat or an opportunity?