Strong 2008 continues to Q1 for UK travel to US

There may be bad news all over the travel economy, but from time to time, we’re able to dig up a positive development. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Travel and Tourism Industries was able to deliver a bit yesterday. Travel from the United Kingdom to the United States was up 3 percent in 2008 from 2007. Sure, it’s not much, but it’s better than a downward spiral.

Last year, 4.6 million people came to the United States from the UK, an increase of only 1 percent year-over-year. Just over a million of them came in the last quarter of the year, representing a drop of 11 percent from the same quarter in 2007. In November and December 2008, arrivals were down 14 percent (for each month) from the same periods in the prior year.

The first quarter of 2009 remained fairly steady, with bookings to the United States by UK tour operators down slightly. Sixty percent reported a decrease in bookings, with only 20 percent reporting projected increases. They meet in the middle at flat-to-down slightly. This trend seems likely to continue in the second quarter, with 56 percent of UK tour operators expecting trips to the United States to fall and 16 percent reporting “much lower bookings for the quarter.”