Oxford Economics’ senior economist for tourism economics, Geoff Lacher provided Travel South USA’s global research committee with some insight on the global tourism sector, indicating that it will nearly fully recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic by 2024.
This year, international arrivals to the Travel South USA region will operate at 23% of 2019 levels, improve to 55% next year, reach 79% in 2022, and 94% three years from now.
Liz Bittner, president & CEO of Travel South USA, commented: “A large part of our strategy will be to ‘keep the lights on’ and gain market share during the three years to get to that point.”
Bittner continued: “We are happy to see the 12 state tourism offices and 16-plus city DMO partners join the Brand USA Europe Virtual Global Marketplace next week. Our collective spirit and optimism will be on full display in over 550 virtual meetings with tour operators from Continental Europe and the UK/Ireland. This virtual platform offers a connection with our best tourism ambassadors until we can safely meet face to face again.”
Oxford Economics’ Lacher said he expects the first half of 2021 to be challenging and domestic travel will improve faster; however, recovery is inevitable, and the second half of 2021 will see a noticeable improvement in international arrivals.
Said Bittner: “Travel South USA has always been resilient and flexible as we’ve approached each origin market with innovative strategies and tactics during the past 55 years. We fully expect to stay true to who we are in the next three years.”
While a return to pre-pandemic levels of international travel will be a multi-year effort, the double-digit increases beginning in 2021 and beyond will help support the export economy needed for the South to achieve full recovery.
The travel industry has been severely impacted and is currently in an economic depression. Fifty-one percent of hospitality jobs are on extended furlough or permanently gone. Hotel occupancies and visitor spending are at their lowest since the Great Depression of the 1920s.
There have been some bright spots of a rebound in domestic travel to mountain and beach destinations. Still, ultimately, we will need international visitation to fully recover and restore our vibrant cities and off-the-beaten-path destinations alike.
The U.S. as a whole and the Southern region in particular must continue to have international visitation for leisure, business, and educational prosperity.
In 2019, the Travel South USA region hosted 7.2 million international travellers, who spent $10.3 billion in the local economy. The region consistently beat national averages for growth and gain market share from origin markets around the world. Most noteworthy, it welcomed record numbers of visitors from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
Said Bittner: “We value these visitors for two reasons. First, they tend to stay longer and spend more on authentic food, music, attractions, accommodations, and cultural activities. Second, these visitors enjoy themselves and have such a great experience. They become destination ambassadors, sharing the South’s memorable experiences with their friends and families, and creating repeat visitors.”
Tourism Economics, along with Destination Analysts and Longwoods International, is part of a robust research, insight, and analytics strategy for Travel South USA. To quote Tourism Economics, “By planning for it, we can accelerate it.” We continue to invest in data to make every penny we collectively spend on international marketing count.
Global international travel from Europe, Asia, South America, and Oceania is expected to outperform and outpace domestic travel during this decade.
The Travel South USA region is positioned well, with our strong destination attributes — food, music, culture, outdoors, year-round appeal, and location — and we have the infrastructure to be on the go-line when it is time to return to marketing. We are committed to our Global Partner Programming that is appropriately scaled and flexible to take advantage of opportunities.
DMOs and DMCs are also being invited to attend the 1st Annual Travel South Global Summit that will take place on April 14, 2021, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Further details will be available in mid-November.
Go to www.TravelSouthUSA.org for more.