VisitBritain is encouraging travel advisors to get their clients thinking about, and booking, their vacations now, as demand will likely outpace supply when the United Kingdom opens to international travel.
"What we do know, in terms of hard data, is that there is pent-up demand for travel," said Gavin Landry, VisitBritain's executive vice president for the Americas, during a virtual fireside chat with Travel Leaders Network president Roger Block on Wednesday.
VisitBritain has a consumer sentiment tracker that found 70% of consumers are likely to take an international trip this year. Of that, 40% said they definitely will, Landry said, and among that group almost two-thirds has not yet decided where to go, nor have they booked.
"This is a great opportunity for Britain," he said.
While the U.K. is still in lockdown, the government recently released a path to reopening, which includes allowing international travel no earlier than May 17. As restrictions start to ease, Landry said, VisitBritain will activate marketing campaigns in all of its markets, including North America, with inspirational messages to rebuild confidence in international travel.
Based on the U.K.'s reopening plan, Landry said, attractions will be open to travelers once restrictions on international travel ease.
Operators will likely require that visitors pre-book the experiences for specific times to enable safety precautions like social distancing. While that will require additional planning for travelers and their advisors, it will also present an opportunity to visit famous historic sites like the Tower of London and Stonehenge with fewer crowds than there would have been pre-pandemic, Landry said. How long that will last is unknown.
Great Britain offers a number of outdoor options for travelers, Landry said, including its beaches and coastal cliffs.
Right now, VisitBritain is focused on people who are holding travel credits and trying to convert those to U.K. trips. It has partnered with a number of suppliers that are providing itineraries.
While there are many options for travelers, Landry believes "demand will outstrip supply initially," so VisitBritain is encouraging advisors to ask their clients to dream about travel now and get planning.