Brits are saddling up and riding back to the USA – and with new experiences on offer alongside timeless classic, there’s never been a more exciting time to visit

Reborn in the USA

Soaring cacti spread shadows across the sandy trail, as I ride through the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, the Goldfield Mountains shimmering in the late afternoon sun.

One of the world’s hottest deserts, the Sonoran is also surprisingly one of its richest, home to thousands of species of flowering plants, hundreds of types of bird, and an array of desert critters, along with mountain lions, bobcats and coyotes. 

My home for the night, Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch in Mesa, dates back to the 1920s, but humans have been living in the Tucson Basin for around 12,500 years, with some areas believed to be the oldest inhabited region of the USA. 

Less than an hour away, Arizona’s capital, Phoenix, pulses with hip hotels, urban patio bars and eateries, live music and dazzling street art, but here, on horseback, only the soft padding of hooves and the merest murmur of the wind disturb the sound of silence. 

We’ve missed you, America: the ancient and the new; the familiar and the unique; the legends of the past and the rich promise of tomorrow. 

Welcome back

In 2019, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, 22 million people travelled between the two countries and, after the reopening announcement, bookings rocketed by 83%, with Orlando leading the charge.

“November was the real turning point for U.S. recovery as we transitioned from a state of readiness to welcoming the world back,” says Chris Thompson, CEO of Brand USA. 

“Each and every state and territory has a unique breadth and depth of possibilities for travel that gives the USA a competitive advantage above other destinations...there’s a real sense of optimism, excitement and enthusiasm for 2022.”

ABTA’s Travel Trends findings reveal that 49% of respondents consider it more important than ever to take a holiday in 2022, while 46% expect to spend more money on their break.

For many of these ‘catch-up consumers’, the USA will be top of their wish list.   

“It’s fantastic to see UK-USA travel rebounding so strongly, as our 100-plus members are seeing increased interest in the diversity of experiences on offer right across the USA,” says Tracey Spuyman, CEO at Visit USA.

“The Visit USA Travel Planner has been updated for 2022, to support the travel trade in their mission to reinvigorate people about what makes the USA so special, and provide travellers with the motivation they need to book their next USA trip as soon as possible. 

“Produced in association with Selling Travel It’s an invaluable sales support tool that can be downloaded direct from the Visit USA website (visitusa.org.uk).”

 

Ethical travel

“All of the US destinations that we work with have been very proactive in making sure that international visitors have the information they need to remain safe and healthy whilst travelling,” says Maggi Smit, Managing Director of America As You Like It. 

“This includes information on enhanced cleaning protocols at hotels and attractions, advice on how best to enjoy the great outdoors, and highlighting low-contact travel options, such as self-catering accommodation, airstream campers and RVs. As a tour operator specialising in travel to the USA, we feel very confident about sending people to America.”

U.S. destinations have also been using the time to renovate, reinvent and build new and improved tourism facilities, from hotels to restaurants, attractions and airports. 

So while America’s classic, bucket-list experiences remain a big draw, they’re joined by a host of exciting new offerings to tempt travellers to stay longer and explore more.   

“The U.S. booking trends favour pre-pandemic favourites like Orlando, Las Vegas and New York,” says Nick Hughes, Sales Director at worldwide tour operator, Gold Medal. 

“But we’re expecting the demand to extend beyond those cities in the months to come as customers get more adventurous, confidence in travel grows, and news about new attractions, hotels and experiences spreads.”

In our post-pandemic world much has changed, and U.S. destinations along with UK operators and agents are also evolving to meet new consumer demands for slower, ethical and more sustainable travel, unique accommodation, outdoor adventures, RV trips and experiences that celebrate America’s cultural diversity and rich heritage.  

“Covid-19 has definitely amplified some of the trends that were in their infancy before the pandemic, including slower, regenerative and cultural travel,” agrees Neil Jones, UK & Ireland Account Director for the Louisiana Office of Tourism. 

“Enquiries about U.S. national and state parks, and off-the-beaten-track forests, camping and glamping have increased. But bucket list experiences like Mardi Gras, and old favourites including city breaks, cruises and theme parks all seem to be returning to popularity, too.”

Tour operators have responded by introducing new programmes, such as Capital Region USA which has joined forces with Vacations to America to create a new 14-day Great American Road Trip, visiting Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia. 

Similarly, small-group adventure travel company G Adventures has expanded its U.S. collection by adding 13 new tours including several Indigenous-led activities. 

As the world reopens and other exciting destinations vie for UK travellers’ attention once more, the U.S. looks set to ride with its faithful partners into a bright, bold future. After all, in the words of Brand USA CEO, Chris Thompson: “You can only have a U.S .experience in the U.S.”

What's new

Airlines and flights:

• British Airways will launch its first year-round, non-stop flight from Heathrow to Portland, Oregon, on June 3. The new service will run five days a week.

• British Airways will also reinstate its Gatwick-New York route this summer. The daily service will resume on May 28, and its service from Heathrow to Pittsburgh, a four-times-weekly service. 

• New York’s JetBlue entered the Gatwick-New York market last August, flying daily.

Attractions:

 • Visit Orlando’s new trade initiatives in early 2022 will include the revamped Orlando Travel Academy.

• The South Terminal Complex, the  largest construction project in airport history is underway at Orlando International Airport. 

• Orlando’s Walt Disney World Resort is celebrating 50 years with an 18-month anniversary celebration and new attractions including Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.

• Universal Orlando Resort has two new attractions: Jurassic World VelociCoaster and The Bourne Stuntacular. 

• The world’s first Peppa Pig Theme Park will open in February at Legoland Florida Resort.

• Visit California’s online Responsible Travel Code and toolkit is an industry resource to help promote safe and respectful travel to the state.

• California’s new theme park attractions include the Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure Park, The Lego Movie World at Legoland, and The Secret Life of Pets and Jurassic World – The Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood.

• Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opened in Los Angeles last September, dedicated to the vcfv bart and science of the movies. 

• Los Angeles SoFi Stadium Tours offer a behind-the-scenes tour of the largest stadium in the NFL.

• San Juan in Puerto Rico will celebrate its 500th anniversary with events until June. 

• An Amtrak passenger service along the Gulf Coast will begin in January 2022, connecting New Orleans in Louisiana to Mobile in Alabama.  

• Rocky Mountaineer’s new ‘Rockies to the Red Rocks’ route runs from Denver to Moab in Utah via Glenwood Springs.

• Presidio Tunnel Tops is a new outdoor attraction for San Francisco, opening in Marc2.

• The world’s first mermaid museum has opened in Berlin, Maryland. 

• Washington DC’s newest museum, Planet Word – an immersive language experience – is now open. 

• In 2022, Alabama will host The World Games; California will host the Super Bowl LVI and the inaugural Formula One Grand Prix Miami will take place in Florida.

• The National Museum of African American Music is new in Nashville. 

Accommodation:

 • Fifty new hotels have opened in California since the pandemic began, with more to come.

• Florida’s Walt Disney World opens its Star Wars-themed hotel, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, this year, along with Reflections, a new nature-inspired resort on Bay Lake.

• Previously Barbary Beach House, the new Margaritaville Beach House has opened near Smathers Beach in Key West.

• Courtyard by Marriott Titusville Kennedy Space Center is set to open in March.

• The Ritz-Carlton Paradise Valley will open in Scottsdale, Arizona, in late 2022. 

• The St. Regis Chicago is scheduled to open next spring.

• Hard Rock Hotel New York will also be opening early in the year.

• CitizenM will open a second Seattle location in Pioneer Square this year.

• Montana’s new luxury resort, Montage Big Sky, opened in December 2021, 45 minutes from Yellowstone National Park.

• Under Canvas Bryce Canyon opens in June 2022 in Utah, completing the Grand Circle of Under Canvas locations.

• The Chloe  is a lively 14-room hotel, restaurant, bar and pool housed in a 19th century Uptown mansion in New Orleans.

• Also in New Orleans, the five-star Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences opened last August.

• Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is home to the new Camp Margaritaville RV Resort (now open) and Lodge (opening in April). 

• The new Cambria Hotel Louisville Downtown-Whiskey Row, a Choice hotel, has opened in Kentucky. 

• Glamping resort Under Canvas and woodland lodge Terra Vi will open just outside of Yosemite National Park in Tuolumne County in 2022.

• Accommodation provider Welcome Beyond has acquired U.S.-based Stays, expanding its collection of holiday house rentals, B&Bs and boutique hotels in
North America.

• The restoration of the AG Gaston Motel in Birmingham, Alabama, is scheduled for completion this year.

Book it with...

North America Travel Service

A 16-day Rockies, Rail and Red Rocks itinerary starts in Denver, Colorado and ends in Las Vegas, Nevada. The trip includes the new Rocky Mountaineer train journey between Colorado and Utah. Prices start at £3289pp.

northamericatravelservice.co.uk