Around 300 registrants attended the webinar on US travel and tourism headed by Jackie Ennis, Vice President for Global Markets of Brand USA (center, bottom row) and officials of various US Airlines.

The United States (US) Embassy in the Philippines, in conjunction with its US travel partners, held on April 28 a webinar on US travel and tourism in preparation for the resumption of leisure travel.

Around 300 registrants were given travel insights from Brand USA, US airlines such as American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, NYC and Company, and United Airlines.

Darrel Ching, Commercial Attache of US Department of Commerce, mentioned in the virtual event that in 2019, more than 208,000 Filipino travellers visited the US. Although there was an 80 percent decrease last year due to the pandemic, he enthused that they remain upbeat for there is a significant pent-up demand for travel in the market.

“According to the Transportation Security Administration, current US air traveller figures are about 50 percent of what they were in 2019. But passenger figures are on the rise. Roughly 1.5 million travellers went TSA on March 21 – a number that was not reached for more than one year,” Ching shared.

Meanwhile, Jackie Ennis, Vice President for Global Markets of Brand USA, said they are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with increased vaccinations and decreased Covid cases in the US.

“We are hoping that full recovery will come steadily and quickly,” Ennis said.

Readiness

To assist them in assessing the conditions for recovery, Brand USA — an organization dedicated to marketing the US as a premier travel destination — has put together some key indicators to determine the resumption of travel, while working very closely with their federal partners to monitor the optimum timing for recovery.

As markets evolve, the gating criteria that will impact these decisions include both source market and home market conditions.

“In the source market, air service is a critical component of normalization and we are monitoring carefully the planned increases in seat capacity for the air routes back in the United States. Consumer sentiment is also very important. Increased in intent to visit the US is critical,” Ennis said.

“US entry policy toward market and source-market policy toward travel to the USA are very critical factor as well. Clearly, travel restrictions to the US have to be lifted and we do not want onerous requirements in the home country. Consumer behavioural indicators are also critical as we want to see substantive increases in search and product queries for travel to the US,” she continued.

“Lastly, home market conditions are also equally important. Covid-19 levels have to be sustained or at a low volume of cases. Destinations within the US have to be prepared and ready to accept international inbound visitors,” Ennis added.

In establishing the gating criteria, Brand USA launched its Covid-19 dashboard on January 26, to provide a set of indicators on related conditions. The dashboard summarized how individual markets are performing in relation to recovery targets, which have been designed to help for effective marketing activity.

Once a market has sustained three months of positive growth across these key areas, it is by then they will consider whether the time is right to resume market spending.

“It is our intent to work with the global travel trade to help prepare travellers with information that they need to understand US guidelines, rules and regulations to ensure that their visit is safe as possible. Health related safety measures do vary across the country and are often determined by local and State officials,” noted Ennis.

The organization’s consumer site, visittheusa.com, links to each States’ specific set of guidelines and rules.

Full recovery by 2024

Ennis predicted in the same event that recovery in the US will come fast. However, full recovery from all sectors of the market might happen by 2024.

“We anticipate that some markets will recover faster than others based on both source market and home market conditions. A lot depends on airline connectivity and when you see the massive reductions in connectivity that we have to the US, it is fairly extensive,” Ennis shared.

“Full recovery will be probably in 2024, but we also recognize that there is an incredible demand for travel from across the globe. We definitely feel that the US is well positioned as a true aspirational destination,” she added.

In the end, the Brand USA executive also foresees that leisure travel will recover first before business travel.

“What we’re hearing is that corporate business will take a little bit of time. Businesses are now used to virtual meetings. But [for example], there’s a client that a big business lost just because they didn’t show up in person, then that will be the time it may generate business travel again. It’s generally accepted that the leisure travel will be the first to rebound,” stressed Ennis.