Travel TrendsNumber of outbound travellers from UK, the 3rd top inbound market to US, expected to reach 20.5 million by 2024, says GlobalData.

Trips to visit friends and relatives may lead travel recovery

People are keen to reunite with family and friends.
People are keen to reunite with family and friends. Photo Credit: Shutterstock/tool2530

New research by GlobalData confirm earlier findings — ‘visiting friends and relatives’ (VFR) trips are destined to be a major driving force in the global travel industry’s recovery, and tourism providers should not underestimate their influence.

With the US lifting travel restrictions for vaccinated foreign travellers since 8 November, the data and analytics company zoomed into the UK — the third top source market into America in 2020 according to Statista.

Projections show that the number of outbound residents from the UK for VFR may potentially increase from 10.6 million in 2021 to 20.5 million by 2024.

With a 24.8% compound annual growth rate, the data bodes well for US’ tourism recovery, and the country can expect to see more UK-US flights.

“VFR travel is likely to lead demand in the immediate future as travel restrictions begin to ease and pent-up demand is unlocked,” said Jia Haider, Associate Travel and Tourism Analyst at GlobalData.

Haider advises UK and US airlines to focus on VFR demand as UK travellers are looking to “reconnect with their loved ones after months of separation.”

VFR is expected to increase at a greater pace than leisure, according to GlobalData.
VFR is expected to increase at a greater pace than leisure, according to GlobalData.

In a poll by Global Data, 58% of global respondents said that quarantine requirements were the largest deterrent for international travel, while 55% revealed they would be deterred by travel restrictions.

However, Haider believes that the “hesitance towards travelling is likely to change with the easing of travel restrictions and quarantine requirements”.

Fully vaccinated UK travellers will be able to enter the US without quarantine from early November as long as they provide proof of Covid-19 recovery in the past three months or a negative test result no more than three days prior to travel.

“The US has long been a popular destination for UK tourists and GlobalData analysis shows that the US was the fifth most popular international destination in 2019. With restrictions easing it is likely to release pent-up demand and provide much needed revenue for travel companies,” Haider said.

Airlines that offer direct UK-US flights can also potentially generate revenue recovery by increasing flight frequencies.

Haider added that British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, which offer a wide variety of US flight schedules, have seen “surges in demand for flights to the US”. He believes that travellers prefer direct flights “for a perceivably safer experience” rather than flights with layover stops.

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