WTM London – the event where Ideas Arrive – saw a variety of fascinating sessions in the Americas Inspiration Zone that aimed to highlight the tourism trends shaping the region for the coming years.
One trend that was clearly observed is that US consumers are increasingly travelling outside North America as they become more adventurous – creating a huge potential market for destinations around the world.
During a session on How America Travels, held at the Americas Inspiration Zone at WTM London, delegates heard how 135 million US citizens now have passports with 42 million taking an international trip outside North America in 2018, up from 37 million the previous year.
The figures were revealed by Zane Kerby, president and CEO of the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), who added that another 50 million US travellers had also taken trips to either the US or Mexico last year.
Spending on international travel by US consumers has also risen from $86 billion in 2000 to $186 billion in 2018.
“The number of travellers leaving US shores – and not just going to Canada or Mexico – has gone up and up in the last 20 years,” added Kerby.
Europe remains the most popular non-North American destination for US residents with 42.4% of the market, although this is down from a market share of 49.8% in 2000.
The Caribbean was the second most popular choice for Americans, thanks to “astonishing” growth in recent years, with 20.8% of the market, followed by Asia with 14.9%.
Kerby said US consumers looking for an international vacation were increasingly booking through travel advisors. In the US, more than 50% of these advisors are now working from home, compared with 32% who are based in retail locations.
This trend is forecast to continue in 2020 with an ASTA survey finding that US consumers expect to spend more money on international trips next year.
Kerby also pointed to other key trends such as the fact that 61% of Americans going on overseas vacations are female while Generation X (those born between the early 1960s and early 1980s) currently spend more on travel than any other age group in the US.
Some destinations in the Americas need to improve how they promote their local cuisine if they want to take a bite out of the growing trend for gastronomic tourism.
Later on at the Inspiration Zone stage there was a tasty lesson to be learned for visitors at WTM London. During a session titled: The Latest Trends in Gastro Tourism in the Americas Inspiration Zone at WTM London, delegates heard about the rise in demand from consumers for more “authentic” food-based experiences, including meeting chefs, helping to cook meals and learning about the local produce used in dishes.
Erik Wolf, founder of the World Food Travel Association, said: “What we have found is that people are going past local and authentic. That’s not enough, people want the back story – how old is the recipe? How has it changed over the centuries?”
Wolf praised Peru for successfully marketing itself as a “gourmet destination”, while Canada has “done a fantastic job of promoting its food”.
But he added: “Not all destinations are at the same level of readiness. Ecuador has fantastic food but is not promoting it. Mexico is also doing very little to promote its gastronomy.”
“The Caribbean is a very diverse region with so many dynamic flavours and tastes combined with the culture and heritage of the Caribbean,” she said.
“We’re more than beaches, our culture is infused by our food. The key thing is being creative about food tourism – how do you have that edge and show a difference?”
“People are looking not to just check off landmarks or eat at restaurants, they are looking to understand cultural experiences,” she said. “Food is the way people open up and share experiences about each other. Storytelling plays a big part in getting people to connect with cultures.”
These talks proved insightful to all in the audience and allowed them to take away something of great interest when it came to understanding the trends affecting modern tourism in the Americas.