Trips to visit friends and family set to rise by ten million by 2024 as US relaxes UK travel restrictions, says GlobalData

  • VFR travellers likely to lead demand in the immediate travel recovery phase
  • VFR travel set to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.8% between 2021 and 2024
  • UK-US flights set to underpin recovery as demand for flights increases

The announcement that US travel restrictions for vaccinated UK residents will be relaxed from early November will be met positively by people keen to reunite with family and friends. Leading data and analytics company GlobalData notes that the number of people travelling out of the UK to visit friends and relatives (VFR) is set to rise from 10.6 million in 2021 to 20.5 million by 2024 – that’s an impressive 24.8% CAGR. This is only good news for US tourism, which will benefit from an influx of UK tourists.

Jia Haider, Associate Travel and Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, commented “VFR travel is likely to lead demand in the immediate future as travel restrictions begin to ease and pent-up demand is unlocked. In fact, VFR is expected to increase at a greater pace than leisure, which is unusual as pre-covid leisure was significantly higher in demand than VFR. Focusing on VFR travel demand would be a smart move for both UK and US airlines, as UK travellers look to reconnect with their loved ones after months of separation.”

In a poll by GlobalData*, 58% of global respondents revealed that quarantine requirements were the largest deterrent for international travel, with a further 55% saying they would be deterred by travel restrictions.

Haider continues: “Hesitance towards travelling is likely to change with the easing of travel restrictions and quarantine requirements. From early November, fully vaccinated UK travellers will be able to bypass quarantine requirements and face fewer travel restrictions when entering the US. They will, however, still need to provide proof of a negative test result no more than three days prior to travel or evidence of recovery from COVID-19 in the past three months.

This relaxation bodes well for those willing to venture abroad. The US has long been a popular destination for UK tourists and GlobalData analysis shows that the US was the fifth most popular international destination in 2019. With restrictions easing it is likely to release pent-up demand and provide much needed revenue for travel companies.”

Direct flights could also play a role in generating much-needed revenue and an increase in flight frequency.

Haider adds: “UK-based airlines with strong US flight schedules, including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, have reported surges in demand for flights to the US. Direct flights will likely be favoured by travellers as they allow for a perceivably safer experience than connecting via a hub.”

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