Atas members hail ‘strong’ recovery of US market

Operator members of the Association of Touring and Adventure Suppliers have reported a strong bounce-back for US sales since Covid testing rules were dropped in June.

They say group tours to see national parks, New England fall foliage and sites associated with Elvis Presley are among the best sellers – with sales seen across a range of seasons and destinations.

Commenting on the rising demand since testing was dropped, Richard Forde, head of trade sales at Newmarket Holidays, said: “[The US] is already our second most searched destination and agent sales for the past four weeks have bounced back to 2019 levels.”
Group tours to see fall colours are popular, as are itineraries that include Virginia, Washington DC, the Blue Ridge Mountains, national parks and San Francisco.

“However, the star of the show for the year so far has been our tour of Elvis Presley’s Memphis, New Orleans and Nashville, which has received over 200% more bookings than 2019, with interest driven by the release of Baz Luhrmann’s new movie, Elvis, in June,” he said.

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“There’s a very encouraging mix of late bookings and future planning, with customers taking advantage of September and October discounts, as well as looking ahead to 2023.

“We are confident that November and December will sell well thanks to the draw of Graceland lit up for Christmas.”

TTC Tour Brands – which includes Trafalgar, Insight Vacations and Contiki – is taking bookings mainly for September and October 2022 and 2023.

A spokesperson said the new Elvis film has renewed interest in Trafalgar’s Tastes and Sounds of the South, and New England fall trips are selling out quickly for 2022.

Tours featuring national parks are selling well as people want to explore nature and bucket-list places, added the spokesperson.

The couples and solos market has picked up for September onwards, thanks in part to clients trying to avoid the “perceived airport chaos”.

Intrepid Travel say trips to see the national parks are a “high priority” for people travelling to the US – but warned that many are more crowded this year and more require timed-entry tickets,

“Booking a group tour is a good way to take the hassle out of the equation when it comes to the timed entry tickets. We suggest travellers also start looking to less crowded state parks as options,” said an Intrepid spokesperson.

“Lots of travellers are wanting to do the ‘GOATs’ – greatest of all time – bucket-list trips that people don’t want to postpone anymore.

“Summer and school holidays are the most popular time to travel, but many more travellers are seeing the benefit of off-season travel to beat the crowds at National Parks.”
The spokesperson added: “High gas prices and long distances in the US are making travel more expensive. Small group tours help to split the fuel costs.

“There’s also supply chain challenges for vehicles – with rental cars and new vehicles all more expensive and harder to come by.

“Yellowstone, one of the most popular National Parks in the US, has just had devastating floods that destroyed roads in the north section of the park and stopped would-be visitors. The southern section has reopened, but travellers need to adjust expectations about what they can see.”

Picture of Yellowstone National Park: Suzanne Pommer/shutterstock.com

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