Brand USA urges travel trade to prepare for ‘next normal’

Brand USA says the UK travel trade will be a key element as the US market prepares to recover in a post-Covid world.

Chris Thompson, Brand USA chief executive, said: “Relationships with the travel trade are critical.

“When we get back to promoting travel, we need to keep those relationships alive.”

He was speaking at the start of the second edition of Brand USA’s European Travel Week (October 26-29).

The inaugural European Travel Week was held in London last year but this year, it is the first event to take place on the Brand USA Global Marketplace online platform.

More than 150 buyers from across Europe and about 115 US exhibitors are taking part in the four-day virtual event, which features one-to-one appointments, networking sessions, and speeches from tourism leaders.

“This platform is critical, as the travel trade will allow us to get back to travelling quicker,” said Thompson.

“Lots of questions are being asked, and travel trade partners can send those messages to customers.”

He said the phrase ‘new normal’ is overused – instead the trade is talking about the ‘next normal’.

“We need to find a way to live with this [virus]; we need to be respectful but find a way to live with it,” said Thompson, citing the examples of aircraft which have reliable air filtration and circulation technology to reduce transmission.

He started the virtual event on Monday morning holding a keynote conversation with Arne Sorenson, Marriott International president and chief executive.

“Arne had a very positive, aspirational message,” said Thompson.

“There is a lot of pent-up demand, but also pessimism and anxiety as it [the pandemic] is lasting for so long.

“Arne and I said the power of travel can transcend all of that once the barriers to travel are relaxed.”

Funding for Brand USA and its partners is “challenged” by the pandemic, said Thompson, and B2C marketing is on hold until international travel can resume.

“Long-haul travel will be the last thing to come back and there so many hurdles outside our control,” said Thompson.

“But beyond Canada and Mexico, Europe is the one market we are most excited about coming back.”

Following the opening session with Thompson and Sorenson, the event will host a discussion about aviation with Josh Earnest, United Airlines chief communications officer and Adam Sacks, Tourism Economics president (October 27).

Wednesday (October 27) will see a discussion of European travel trends with Damon Embling, Euronews’ world affairs reporter; Donald Leadbetter, National Park Service tourism programme manager; Andrew Gibson, Wellness Tourism Association chairman; and Jenny Southan, Globetrender editor and founder.

The Supporting Black-Owned Travel Businesses session (October 29) will hear from Stephanie Jones, National Blacks in Travel and Tourism Collaborative founder and chief executive; Cheraé Robinson, Tastemakers Africa founder and chief executive; and Al Hutchinson, Visit Baltimore president and chief executive.

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