Southern US destinations eye luxury sector to fuel rebound

Southern US cities are targeting growth from the luxury sector as they look to return to pre-pandemic visitor levels from the UK.

Destinations including New Orleans and Nashville said the premium sector was a key focus as the US looks to overcome inflationary and cost-of-living pressures in one of its key international markets.

Speaking at Brand USA Travel Week in London, leaders of both cities’ marketing organisation noted growth in top-end accommodation product – a view echoed by Phoenix, which is seeing recovery driven by its luxury resort and golf sectors.

In addition to the luxury segment, Nashville and New Orleans are also continuing to work with the key gateway city of Atlanta to promote the wider southern region with ongoing Rhythms of the South marketing activity.

The four cities reported differences in the speed of recovery of the UK market, with Phoenix seeing a 95% rebound compared to pre-pandemic levels, Atlanta 90% and Nashville 85%.

New Orleans’s recovery is slower, at 50% of 2019, though New Orleans & Company chief executive Walt Leger said he was confident that rebound would accelerate with ongoing investment in the city’s hospitality and travel infrastructure.

All four destinations hailed the importance of direct routes from the UK, with Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp chief executive Deana Ivey saying the service had introduced a new market of extended city-break customers.

The cities also committed to ongoing consumer promotion and trade support in the UK market.

William Pate, chief executive of Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, said promotions would continue to focus on Delta services through the airline’s home city and largest hub.

Visit Phoenix chief executive Ron Price added: “You are going to see a lot more of Phoenix and The Valley. We have not been in this market heavily for a long time but that is going to change.”

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