Tour operators anticipate some international travel to return this year

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A new survey from the U.S. Tour Operators Association shows guided travel companies are expecting a phased-in return to operations this summer and fall across the Americas.

The survey released Wednesday shows 17% foresee a return to domestic travel business in June, and 26% think it will come in July; 9% said August, and 30% anticipate a September restart.

Seventeen percent said they anticipate returning to Mexico as early as June, a number that rises to 50% by September.

Most operators said September 2020 would see a potential return to operations in Canada.

The biggest bump for Europe comes in the fall, when 51% said they hope to restart trips. 

Forty-four percent anticipate returning to South America between September and October. And 54% anticipate restarting Antarctica itineraries between November and December and 25% said they expect to return to Africa this fall.

Beyond Europe and the Americas, most expect travel to resume gradually.

Only 47% expect tour-travel to Asia to resume by September, but the number rises to 63% by December, and another 27% say they'll be back by Q1. The Australia/New Zealand/Pacific Island region also will grow gradually: 26% of respondents said business would restart by September, but 44% are targeting Q1 for a restart.

“While short-term uncertainty remains, the survey of our tour operator members reveals that the desire among consumers for international travel remains promising, especially looking ahead to 2021,” said Terry Dale, USTOA president and CEO. “Our active members are taking a destination-by-destination approach to resume operations around the globe, with cautious optimism for an anticipated return to business in various regions this fall.” 

The survey also showed that 57% of respondents reported that business on the books for 2021 is rebooked guests from canceled 2020 departures. 

Eighty percent of traveler bookings are to international destinations and the remaining 20% are to North America.

Update: This report was revised May 20 at 7:45 p.m. Eastern with updated numbers.

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