Published On: Thu, Jul 13th, 2017

Donald Trump's affect on tourism has not been as bad as feared

A FEW months into Donald Trump’s presidency, the headlines about travel to America were dire. “US Travel Industry Fears a ‘Lost Decade’ Under Trump,” Bloomberg warned. “Trump Slump Could Take a $ 1.3 Billion Toll on US Travel Spending,” the travel-news site Skift stated. “US Travel Industry Fears Trump Slump,” reported The Hill, which quoted the executive director of the Global Business Travel Association saying that the president’s early policy agenda “is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before” and “creates doubts about the safety and security of traveling.” This blog was no less pessimistic when we announced back in February that “International visitors are already turning their back on Trump-era America”. 

Yet people continue to travel. For all the fretting over Mr Trump’s bans on travellers from several majority-Muslim countries, his administration’s prohibition on laptops and tablets on flights from airports around the Middle East, his support for the disruptive boycott of Qatar, and his general unpopularity around the globe, travel to America has not plummeted. In fact in May it grew for the 13th straight month.

The number of international travellers coming to America in May increased by 5.2% compared with a year earlier according to a report released last week by the US Travel Association, which tracks flight and hotel bookings, plane boardings and other data. The trade group also revised up its growth number for April.

“There is widespread talk of daunting challenges to the US travel market—perception of the country abroad is mentioned most, but the strong dollar and slowing global economy are factors as well—yet the resilience of our sector continues to astound,” Roger Dow, the chief executive of the association, stated in the report.

How did commentators get it so wrong? Partly, it is that President Trump’s policies have not directly affected that many people. His first travel ban was swiftly blocked by the courts. So was his second. When the Supreme Court finally allowed it to go into effect, it was with exceptions for travellers with “bona fide” relationships with people living in America. The laptop ban is already being ditched, and it probably did not stop many people from travelling to America anyway. And the idea that international visitors would be so put off by the president’s agenda that they would stay home seem to have been wide of the mark for two reasons: people travelling for work still need to conduct their business, and tourists do not find Broadway or the Grand Canyon any less enticing because a different man inhabits the Oval Office.

In spite of the good numbers, though, just about everyone seems to expect the travel boom to slow. Mr Dow credits “tourism marketing efforts at the federal, state, and local level” for helping to keep travel numbers up in spite of the policy challenges. But one of the biggest marketing efforts, the Brand USA agency, would be eliminated under Mr Trump’s budget proposal. The US Travel Association cites research indicating that the agency added $ 8.9bn to the American economy last year, providing a 28-to-1 return on investment.

The continued strength of the dollar and the fallout from the administration’s travel and immigration policies still have the potential to hold back travel to America. In particular the report warns of possible “unintended consequences” stemming from the president’s immigration policies and international relations. It projects a slight decline in international travel to America in the next six months. Then again, we have heard those projections before. In half a year’s time, we will know if today’s forecast of an imminent Trump-slump is as much of a bust as the last one.

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- Blue-collar guy interested in politics, business, and internet - Fan of sports and leisure - Movie buff

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Donald Trump's affect on tourism has not been as bad as feared