Donald Trump has not been known to mince words, either when he was on the campaign trail or after he entered the White House. He says what’s on his mind without apparent regard for what anyone else thinks.
Couple that with his so-far unsuccessful attempt to unilaterally ban residents of certain countries from traveling to the U.S. and one wonders how his words and deeds might affect travel to the U.S. by foreign visitors.
In an article published by the New York Times two days after the 2016 Presidential election, journalist Stephanie Rosenbloom wrote “the spirit of openness that has permeated everything from our increasingly global economy to how we travel may be poised to change.”
She went on to say that
“experts say that how attractive the United States continues to be to foreign tourists will depend on how affordable it is to visit; what, if any, policies the Trump administration puts into place (new immigration procedures that make the customs and border process harder, the scrutiny of particular groups of people); and the perception of how welcoming and safe (or not) the United States is.”
But since that article was written more than two months before Trump was sworn in as U.S. President, one might write it off as nothing but mere speculation with no facts to back up the concerns that those interviewed by Rosenbloom expressed.
Fast-forward to the post-inauguration period to find out whether the election of Trump, and in particularly his initial attempt to bar individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S., has had a positive, negative, or neutral impact on U.S. tourism.
In discussing the travel ban in a January 30, 2017 story, The Economist noted that “[a] country hitherto renowned for its warm welcome suddenly feels awfully frosty.”
The following day, the United Kingdom Website The Telegraph said that
“[a]lready other destinations are rubbing their hands at the prospect of holidaymakers shunning the US. According to Reuters, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) believes the ban could provide a boost to the Asian nation. It expects arrivals from the Middle East to increase by eight per cent in the first quarter of 2017, compared to last year.”
The same day NBC News quoted Nadejda Popova, Euromonitor Travel Project Manager as saying that
“‘The new executive order could also impact how the U.S. is perceived as a tourism destination and how open to foreign travelers it will be in the future.’”
On February 4, 2017, Hugo Martin, writing for the Los Angeles Times opened his story with this observation:
“President Trump has been in office less than a month but already local and global tourism organizations predict that his policies, including a travel ban targeting seven countries, will hurt the nation’s $2-trillion travel industry.”
He went on to quote Taleb Rifai, secretary general of the United Nations World Tourism Organization who said:
“‘Besides the direct impact, the image of a country which imposes travel bans in such a hostile way will surely be affected among visitors from all over the world and risk dumping travel demand to the USA.’”
However, Martin added that “[e]arly indications of an immediate impact are mixed.”
Conflicting views about whether the U.S. tourism economy would be negatively affected also came up on February 9, 2017 in an Associated Press story published in The Denver Post. Some of the data cited in the story suggests a downturn in those booking travel to the U.S., while other information indicated that tourist travel to the U.S. would increase.
That story ended with this comment:
“U.S. Travel Association spokesman Jonathan Grella said the Trump travel ban has a ‘potential dangerous ripple effect. … People make (travel) choices based on policies, based on protests of those policies, based on fear. The fallout could be wide-ranging.’”
Similar concerns were voiced on February 10, 2017 by Forbes which reported that
“Adam Sacks, president of the U.S.- and U.K.-based travel industry consultancy Tourism Economics, expects this decision and the policy pronouncements from the Trump administration ‘to severely damage the US travel sector this year.’”
Forbes noted that the travel ban “…comes at a time when the U.S. dollar is strengthening against many other currencies, already making travel to the U.S. less affordable.”
After the courts blocked implementation of the travel ban, Fortune stated that it would probably have “little to no effect” on the U.S. economic growth this year, but that protectionist moves, such as a withdrawal from NAFTA, ”could easily cause a re-birth of stagflation due to ensuing supply chain disruptions.’”
But this past Monday, The Guardian reported that “Interest in travel to the US has ‘fallen off a cliff’’ since Donald Trump’s election, according to travel companies who have reported a significant drop in flight searches and bookings since his inauguration and controversial travel ban.”
And the previous day, The Huffington Post said
“Numerous reports show interest in both business and leisure travel to the U.S. declined since Trump took office. But there was an especially dramatic plunge after he signed a now-suspended executive order on travel Jan. 27 that barred some immigrants and visitors from majority Muslim nations from entering the country, according to data from the travel site Hopper.”
As this year progresses, and particularly after it ends and data on 2017 inbound travel to the U.S. has been thoroughly analyzed, Americans will have a better answer to whether Trump’s words and deeds have, indeed, scared off tourists from aboard and had a significant impact on the U.S. travel industry.
But today Travel + Leisure said the economic fallout from a decrease in visitors to the U.S. could amount to a $10 billion (yes, that’s billion with a “B”) a year loss, a number that just might shake Trump’s faith in what he’s said and done.
(Update, March 13, 2017: The New York Times cites the farecasting app, Hopper ,as indicating that search for flights to the U.S. from aboard are still down for the same period last year. The Los Angeles Times ran a story on March 12, 2017 about tourists being afraid to visit the U.S.)