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US Flight bookings to London slow down

2017 has been a spectacular year for inbound tourism to London, with growth in long-haul arrivals, during the first three quarters of the year, standing at 13.5% up on the equivalent period in 2016. However, analysis of bookings for the final quarter of the year indicates a significant slowing in demand, with bookings currently standing 7.0% ahead of where they were at the equivalent point last year.

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Most notably, the Americas, which are the UK’s most important origin market by numbers and by value (they represent a 50% share of long-haul visitors), have slowed. Arrivals in the first three quarters of the year are 16.9% up on 2016 but bookings for the fourth quarter are currently just 4% ahead of where they were at this time in 2016.

The slowdown in bookings from the USA correlates with a decline in the relative strength of the US$ dollar against £ Sterling. Last October, £ Sterling hit a 5-year low of $1.22 but the rate has since recovered to over $1.30.

Analysis of long-haul bookings for London reveal that a series of terror attacks coincided with dips in demand and those dips were significantly more marked in the fast-growing Chinese market. However, within a matter of just a few weeks, there was a return to growth, suggesting that the inbound travel industry is becoming increasingly resilient to terrorism.

The analysis has come from ForwardKeys, the company which helps forecast future travel by analysing around 17 million flight booking transactions a day. ForwardKeys also revealed a slight slowdown in growth of the long-haul outbound market too. In the first three quarters of 2017, departures have been 7.5% up on last year. However, bookings for the last three months of 2017 are currently running 6.3% ahead of where they were at the same moment in 2016.

The most popular long-haul destination by far is the USA, with a 29% share of the market. It is followed by the UAE (7%), India (6%), Canada (5%) and Thailand (4%). The destinations showing the most substantial growth are Saudi Arabia, which is showing 4th quarter bookings 29.2% ahead of the same point in 2016, Australia, 15.4% ahead, Japan, 13.5% ahead, UAE, 11.9% ahead and Mexico 11.6% ahead.

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