Opening of US borders

Tour operators register a rush of enquiries

Strong increase in demand: New York City is one of the favourite destinations of German holidaymakers after the Biden administration has announced that US borders will reopen for European travellers in November.
FVW Medien/HMJ
Strong increase in demand: New York City is one of the favourite destinations of German holidaymakers after the Biden administration has announced that US borders will reopen for European travellers in November.

The USA plans to open its borders for citizens of the European Union at the beginning of November. German tour operators are reporting a rush of enquiries – mostly for 2022. The 2021 business year, on the other hand, is as good as done. Still a lot of open questions

The timing couldn't have been better – at least for IPW organisers and participants. On the first day of the big US incoming fair, which was held live for the first time in more than two years, the US government announced the long-awaited opening of the borders for vaccinated EU citizens as of the beginning of November. Finally, one might say, after Canada, which tends to be more cautious, had rushed ahead two months earlier with the lifting of the entry ban.

The reaction of the customers? "As if a switch had been flipped," says the adventure tour operator Intrepid Group. The competitors felt the same way: America Unlimited reported a "real rush of enquiries" with a 40 percent increase over the already rising numbers of the previous weeks. At the competitor Canusa Touristik, too, "it started immediately the night after the announcement" with "as many enquiries as usual in a fortnight".

But it should be noted that only the two big players TUI ("sharp increase") and DER Touristik ("a multiple of the previous weeks") are talking about rising new bookings. The majority of tour operators are merely registering a strong increase in demand. "As soon as detailed information is available, we expect a lot of bookings," says CRD Touristik, referring to the open questions. When will the borders be open? Which vaccines are accepted – and what about cross-vaccinations? Which rule applies to children? Which forms have to be filled out? And what does the US health authority CDC prescribe for bus tours?

DER Touristik is therefore announcing an information centre especially for trips to the USA to support customers with the entry formalities via a website including a filling-in aid, podcasts, flyers and live broadcasts from the USA. The need for advice is great, according to Explorer Fernreisen: "Customers are asking: What happens when the USA closes the borders again?" The uncertainty of the past 18 months is still very much in people's minds.

Most demand is for 2022

It is therefore not surprising that most enquiries and bookings are for 2022. After all, market leader TUI is already registering strong demand for November and the winter months. "Xmas shopping in New York will be trendy again" – not least because of the new Condor flight, according to Explorer Reisen.

The sun destinations Florida and Hawaii are also in demand with tour operators in winter. At the moment, demand is more for shorter city breaks, reports DER Touristik: "The extensive round trips will only gradually be rescheduled" as soon as the exact entry regulations are known.

Strong trend for trips to Western USA in 2022

A trend towards round trips in the West is emerging for 2022. "Most US holidaymakers want to discover as much as possible on their own," comments the FTI Group. Camper and rental car trips are the bestsellers, according to Explorer, especially since this way "you can reduce contacts and keep them under control".

Despite the boom in demand: "2021 is out," regrets Argus Reisen. With luck, 5% of the 2019 volume is still possible, the tour operator agrees with America Unlimited. Canusa expects "hardly any more major booking volume". CRD has "written off the year" and is "happy about every booking". Ten months without any business cannot be compensated, explains DER Touristik.

In 2022, tight capacities and higher prices for flights and vehicles are looming, but things should "go back towards normality in big steps", says Detmer. Forecasts range from 60% (Argus) to 70% (America Unlimited) and 75% (Canusa) to 90% (CRD) of 2019 volumes. However, all tour operators are likely to agree to FT Group's assessment: "We expect a strong USA year in 2022."

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