Uncertainty and instability were constants in the travel market even before the pandemic. As the sector needs to be resilient and creative to deal with so many global issues, travel designers are among the first to directly feel changes in consumer behavior. In one of the quietest, most strategic adaptations in recent times, several UK travel companies have been moving their business focus to the United States, realizing that the country offers a growing potential market for luxury travelers.
This insight and many other lessons about the current status of the US and UK travel markets were presented by the panel hosted by REMOTE travel representatives, Odile Palustran and Tad Bradley, and moderated by director of REMOTE Latin America, Ligia Secco, during the REMOTE Pre-Immersion in Cuenca in October 2023.
In 2022, in order to stimulate connections, exchange ideas, promote innovation and training and keep our community of REMOTE Exhibitors up to date on the latest trends in the independent luxury tourism market, we launched REMOTE Pre-Immersion, a special gathering that preceded our annual event in Cafayate, Argentina. We repeated the formula in Cuenca, Ecuador in 2023, bringing together 38 professionals representing Latin American lodgings and DMCs for a night of conversations and socializing and a day of lectures, learning and interactive activities. With the success of both editions, REMOTE Pre-Immersion is now officially part of our REMOTE Immersion program as an optional activity for exhibitors.
Learn more: Puyehue, Chile: Home to REMOTE Immersion 2024
American travelers are easy to please
During the Pre-Immersion panel, Odile Palustran and Tad Bradley pointed out that British companies shifting to the North American market are diverse in profile. “It’s really interesting to see how the UK has won over the US market,” says Odile, founder and director of the Opal Collection. “It’s been going on for a few years now. We’re looking at UK companies that started opening offices in the US. That started in 2013, 2014. But that’s not all. There are also companies that only have offices in the UK and mostly cater to the US market.”
Intending to diversify their consumer markets to deal with pre and post-pandemic economic issues, UK travel companies have opened small and large offices in different corners of the US, hired independent representatives or simply directed their online marketing and promotion strategy toward US travelers, keeping their offices and entire staffs in the UK. These companies’ American market share ranges from 35% to 95%. According to one senior executive at a UK-based company, without even trying, a UK company can garner 10-20% of their bookings from the American market with online presence alone.
Tad Bradley, founder of the Kusini Collection, believes that numbers can explain part of the equation. “I think one of the biggest things is simple numbers. If you look at population, the US has 340 million people and there are roughly 70 million people in the UK. There are twice as many tour operators per capita in the UK than in the US. So there’s way more competition in the UK for a smaller population,” he concludes.
Despite being the largest luxury market in the world, the United States loses out to the United Kingdom when it comes to travel experience. “The UK is known as a market that travels a lot. The UK has almost six weeks of holidays a year whereas the US has two, and the travel culture is not as big as in the UK,” says Odile. “I think that, because of that, it’s much easier to find Latin American specialists in the UK than in the US.” According to Odile and Tad, this might also explain why many UK companies still don’t hire much in the US.
According to research from REMOTE travel representatives, at one UK company, which gets 75% of its revenue from the US, five of the employees specialized in Latin America are based in the UK and only two are in the US. At another company, 28 Latin America travel specialists are located in the UK while 12 are in the US.
A new Pew Research Center survey identified that roughly three-quarters of Americans (76%) have visited at least one other country. But while 26% of Americans have traveled to at least five other countries, 69% of UK travelers have visited five countries or more.
On the other hand, the travel representatives believe that the lack of experience leaves Americans more open to discovery. “US travelers are easy to please. They’re happy to spend more money when necessary and they don’t ask too many questions. They like to be surprised. And when they’re happy with the service, they bring other friends! Word of mouth works really well with Americans. Plus, who doesn’t love a British accent?” says Odile. Tad and Odile explain that the tight holidays are also easier and more objective to organize as well as the fact that there’s less time difference between the US and Latin America.
According to Tad, in order to keep up with the competition and maintain their market share, American travel companies are trying to specialize, particularly by hiring remote consultants from Latin America.