Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

USA: the main traditional international market

USA: the main traditional international market

The United States (US) is Europe’s main long-haul inbound market, in terms of the number of tourist arrivals and tourist spending.

In 2014, tourists from the US were the main visitors from outside the EU, accounting for 18% of the total nights spent in the EU by non-EU tourists. This was followed by Russia at 14.9%. Tourists from China, Japan and Brazil each accounted for less than 5% of nights spent by non-EU tourists.

The American market recovered well after the 2008 economic crisis, which is reflected in its ever-increasing number of tourist arrivals to Europe.

Once you understand the characteristics, behaviours and tastes of the American market, you can adapt your tourism offering to match. We will discuss the following:

Do note also that the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) are emerging markets which have gained ground.

Key data from the North American market

In 2016, tourists from the US carried out a total of 104 million trips worldwide – including 27 million trips to Europe.

UNWTO estimated that US tourists spent €111 billion on international travel (excluding international transport) in 2016, showing an increase of 7.8% on 2015. US citizens are the second highest spenders on international travel – coming behind China, which overtook the US in terms of tourism expenditure in 2012.

Over half of US citizens’ outbound travel is to neighbouring countries, specifically Canada and Mexico. Next come (in order):

  • United Kingdom
  • Dominican Republic
  • France
  • Italy
  • Germany
  • Jamaica
  • China
  • Spain

The average length of stay for all overseas destinations is 18 nights, while the median duration is 10 nights.

What image do North Americans have of Europe?

Europe is the USA’s favourite destination, and there is great interest among US citizens in visiting and learning about Europe. The leading European destinations for US residents are:

  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • Italy
  • Germany
  • Spain

Europe is seen as a ‘whole’ destination, without distinctions between countries. It is also considered authentic, diverse and ‘safe and easy’, with good transport connections. Americans like Europe because of the cities, landscapes, the variety of cuisine and the convenience of communicating in English.

Americans use a variety of words to describe Europe, including:

  • historic
  • romantic
  • friendly
  • old
  • unique
  • scenic
  • exciting
  • diverse
  • fascinating
  • interesting
  • unique

European authenticity is the main attraction. North Americans are keen to experience:

  • living history
  • gastronomy and hospitality
  • scenery
  • ancestry
  • immersion
  • culture and heritage

Profile of the North American visitor to Europe

US citizens travel abroad predominantly in the northern hemisphere during the summer months of June, July and August, with a second peak in December. The favoured time to visit Europe is between May and September. The lowest volumes of US-to-Europe travel are in November, January and February.

According to the European Travel Commission (ETC), over three-quarters of outbound trips taken by US residents are for leisure/pleasure (47%) or for visiting family and friends (VFR) (29%). About 15% of trips are for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE travel), while 5% are for educational purposes.

In 2016, Europe accounted for:

  • 25% of all US residents’ overseas trips
  • 35% of US residents’ leisure and VFR trips
  • 43% of US residents’ trips for MICE travel

According to the UNWTO study on the United States outbound travel market to Europe (conducted for the European Travel Commission), the most important sources in travel decision-making were:

  • recommendations from friends and relatives (35%)
  • must-see world renowned destinations (24%)
  • information on the internet (14%)
  • travel agency recommendations (10%)
  • ‘appealing advertising’ (8%)

The average traveller

The average traveller is:

  • around 40 years old
  • with a partner or on a multi-generation family holiday
  • from a high socio-economic and educational background

They are looking for:

  • good value across all aspects of the trip
  • the chance to experience and participate in the culture they are witnessing
  • destinations that combine culture, history and gastronomy

 They want to visit:

  • historic sites with cultural value
  • rural areas and villages, where they can sample and buy local produce
  • city sightseeing spots
  • museums and art galleries
  • restaurants
  • shops
  • concerts

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