The USA, Australia and India continue to take the top spot for the UK’s most favourite long-haul inbound tourism markets, according to research revealed on Monday 4 November at WTM London 2019, the event where ideas arrive.
In a list of the top 30 long-haul countries and the top long-haul 50 cities, there have been some significant new entrants. Nigeria has made it back into the top 10 countries, up 13.7% year-on-year, kicking out the UAE, and Bangladesh has made it in to the top 30, replacing Chile.
Impressive growth has been recorded from several markets, most noticeably Bangladesh, up 32.5%, China, up 19.8 and Taiwan, up 16%.
The top three long-haul cities are New York (up 3.6%), Hong Kong (up 7.4%) and Sydney (down 2.1%).
The most notable risers in the list of cities during the past year are Abjua (up 21%), Delhi (up 21%), Miami (up 20%) and Seattle (up 17%), all of which have climbed four or more places up the ranking.
The research, carried out by travel analytics firm ForwardKeys and WTM London, was based on long-haul flight bookings to the UK for the year 1st October 2018 to 30th September 2019 and benchmarked against the same dates a year before and five years ago.
Behind the changes in rankings are strong trends including the continued growth of China and other Asian economies, the strength of the US dollar, improvements in connectivity, recovery of commodity prices, particularly oil, the Argentine debt crisis and even the attractiveness of the Cricket World Cup.
Currency, competition and connectivity have all helped keep the USA in the top spot according to author of the research, Olivier Ponti, VP Insights, ForwardKeys.
“Overall connectivity between the UK and the US is improving, there is more competition with flights which reduces the cost of airfares. The UK has become a cheaper destination and it’s easier to get to,” he said, citing Norwegian Air’s 12.5% increase in capacity.
Despite retaining second place in the rankings, visitor arrivals to the UK from Australia are down 2.1%, the result of Australia entering its first economic depression in more than 20 years in the last two quarters of 2018, according to Ponti.
“The Australian dollar was dropping, people had less money and it was becoming more expensive to visit the UK. The situation has improved in the year with forward bookings looking promising,” he said.
In third place, India showed a phenomenal growth, up 14.5% compared to 2018, with a quarter of all Indian arrivals staying more than 22 nights. The Cricket World Cup, held in the UK in May and June this year, were cited as having a huge impact on visitor numbers.
Ponti said there were some general principles that explain why origin markets become stronger or weaker, including performance of the local economy, currency fluctuations, airline competition and major events.
However he said the rise of second tier cities was an interesting trend, one that was most marked in the two leading outbound travel markets – the USA, where 16 cities feature in the top 50 list and China, where growth for the country exceeds the growth of its two biggest cities.
Simon Press, WTM London Exhibition Director, said: “These rankings will be useful to everyone who is in business promoting the UK.”