Trans-Atlantic Travel Down in October


The latest Trans-Atlantic report has been released, with some interesting insights on the latest trends on Americans heading across the Pond. 

Overall trans-Atlantic traffic dropped in October, with the leading carriers reporting an average 3.8-percent decline. A portion of that was blamed on Hurricane Sandy, which forced blanket cancellations to and from New York and the Northeast U.S. for most of three days. 

Average capacity was down 5.3 percent, with the U.S. carriers leading the way. Average load factor was 84.3 (compared to 83.1 a year ago). U.S. traffic to Europe flattened in September, with the U.S. Dept. of Commerce reporting 1.14 million U.S. visits (a preliminary number) for an increase of only 1.8 percent (compared to +7.6 percent in August). For the peak season (May-September), Americans made 6.28 million visits to Europe, or 3.8 percent more than in the summer of 2011. That’s a good performance considering that overall North Atlantic capacity was down, and fares and fees were up. 

Finances: The euro-zone is in recession again, Eurostat is reporting. Combined GDP for the 17 countries dropped 0.1 percent in the 3rd Quarter, following a 0.2 percent drop in the 2nd Quarter. Germany, the largest and strongest member economy, grew only 0.2 percent, down from 0.3 percent in the 2nd Q. The Netherlands lost 1.1 percent. The European Union as a whole saw GDP rise 0.1 percent; positive effects of the London Olympics were said to have helped.

Fears that the sovereign-debt crisis could unravel the euro seem to have eased, at least for the moment, thanks in large part to the European Central Bank’s promise to buy government bonds. That has brought down the cost of rolling over debt, especially critical to Spain, Portugal and Italy. Greece remains the most likely to drop out of the euro zone. It is saddled with Europe’s longest, deepest recession and the highest sovereign debt heading toward 190 percent of GDP next year. The latest bailout payment is due next week, but no one seems to know how to reignite growth when the population is bled of cash and credit. The dollar has been on the rise versus the euro, from €0.77 to nearly €0.79 before pulling back slightly Wednesday.

Greece’s economic upheavals, protests and media coverage of same are hurting tourism, according to a report by ITB Berlin and IPK International. Compared to last year (when Greece benefitted from Arab Spring turmoil), overall arrivals in Greece are down 12 percent. Arrivals from Germany and Britain are down 20-30 percent. That was partly offset by increases from Romania and Russia. No numbers were given for U.S. travel to Greece in this report or in the ETC report. Faring better as destinations for Europeans are Italy (+2 percent), Spain (+3 percent) and Portugal (+3 percent), the report said.

Overall visitors to Europe increased more slowly in the 3rd Quarter, according to a report produced by Tourism Economics for the European Travel Commission. The U.S. remains the leading long-haul market and U.S. visitors are up this year (confirming the U.S. data). Slovakia (+27 percent), Estonia, Iceland and Croatia scored the largest percentage gains in U.S. visits among ETC member countries; Belgium, Spain, Italy and Cyprus are seeing fewer Americans. Britain is not an ETC member, but reported that U.S. travel to Britain fell again in September, according to VisitBritain’s provisional report for the month. That continued the downward summer trend, despite the Summer Olympics. For the year through September, U.S. visits to Britain are up only 2 percent. Overall visits to Britain are about level with last year’s through September at 23.5 million. The spend figures are much better: September spending by all visitors was £1.9 billion, 17 percent more than a year ago, with spend per visit at a record £607. 

Olympics impact: VisitBritain estimates that 470,000 foreign visitors came primarily for the Olympics or the Paralympics during July, August and September. Of these, 66 percent were from Europe, 17 percent from North America and the remainder from “elsewhere.” A further 210,000 visitors are estimated to have attended an Olympic event, even if that was not the primary purpose of the trip. The total of 680,000 Olympics-related visitors spent about £920 million for an average of £1,350 per visit.

Bottom line: The Summer Olympics drew hundreds of thousands of people to Britain who might not have visited otherwise. The Games apparently also dissuaded a similar number from visiting for fear of crowds and high prices; thus overall traffic rose very little. But the impressive increase in summer revenue can be credited to the significantly higher spending of Olympics visitors.






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