Light seen at the end of the tunnel for US tourism
Prominent figures in the United States’ tourist trade are expressing confidence in its long-term prospects, even as the coronavirus pandemic continues to dramatically curtail international visitations to the country.
Chris Thompson, president of Brand USA – which promotes the United States internationally as a tourist destination – said during Brand USA’s Oct. 21 opening ceremony for its Global Marketplace tourism show that current gloomy tourism times will at some point end, adding he believes there’s “pent-up demand” for visiting the United States.
“There will be life after the pandemic,” Thompson said.
This year’s marketplace was done virtually, a response to coronavirus, which has brought much of international tourism to a near standstill.
But Kyle Edmiston, president of the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau, who joined Thompson in offering insights into the current state of American tourism, said “interest in visiting the United States is as high as ever,” despite the current situation.
But Edmiston warned that it may be a “two- or three-year process” before American tourism sees a full recovery.
A brighter situation is domestic tourism, which Edmiston said could begin rebounding in a significant way within the next year.
Much has been made over the past seven months of technological advances enabling people – such as those who often travel on business – to work from home. But former United Airlines chief marketing officer Tom O’Toole – who stated that the travel industry finds itself in an “unprecedented” situation – said technology has limitations that will serve the travel industry well.
“Travel will restart because some things technology can’t replace,” he said. “Taking a honeymoon to Orlando isn’t the same as taking a honeymoon to Orlando in Zoom.”
Alice Norsworthy of Universal Parks & Resorts said the pandemic has been “devastating” for the US attractions industry, with Universal’s’ California park currently closed.
Attractions that are now open are having to cope with a “limited” marketing opportunity because there are fewer people travelling, she said.
However, she added that attendance at Universal’s Florida park is now significantly higher than it was earlier in the pandemic.
“We do know the road back will be bumpy but we do have a lot to look forward to look to,” she said, adding that positive upcoming developments include new attractions.
She also stated some Universal technological advances begun in response to the pandemic will be permanent and serve park visitors well, with Universal offering a “more seamless experience” for guests.
Meanwhile, Edmiston said the pandemic is creating challenges for tourist boards in the United States as revenues dwindle, prompting many to downsize. That in turn can make it difficult for them to get “relevant and accurate information” out, he said.
Viewers were also told by O’Toole that Brand USA’s value has been underscored by the pandemic, with the Global Marketplace able to connect those in the United States’ tourist trade with foreign buyers during at a time when travel is often a challenge.