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A ‘Trump Slump’ In The U.S. Travel Industry?

Air France Plane

Travel industry experts are finding a noticeable drop in tourism to the United States from elsewhere in the world that seems to coincide with the election of Donald Trump:

Though they may differ as to the wisdom of the move, the travel press and most travel experts are of one mind: They are currently drawing attention to an unintended consequence of the Trump-led efforts to stop many Muslims from coming to the U.S., pointing to a sharp drop in foreign tourism to our nation that imperils jobs and touristic income.

It’s known as the “Trump Slump.” And I know of no reputable travel publication to deny it.

Thus, the prestigious Travel Weekly magazine (as close to an “official” travel publication as they come) has set the decline in foreign tourism at 6.8%. And the fall-off is not limited to Muslim travelers, but also extends to all incoming foreign tourists. Apparently, an attack on one group of tourists is regarded as an assault on all.

As far as travel by distinct religious groups, flight passengers from the seven Muslim-majority nations named by Trump were down by 80% in the last week of January and first week of February, according to Forward Keys, a well-known firm of travel statisticians. On the web, flight searches for trips heading to the U.S. out of all international locations was recently down by 17%.

A drop of that magnitude, if continued, would reduce the value of foreign travel within the U.S. by billions of dollars. And the number of jobs supported by foreign tourists and their expenditures in the United States—and thus lost—would easily exceed hundreds of thousands of workers in hotels, restaurants, transportation, stores, tour operations, travel agencies, and the like.

Along similar lines, Travel  Weekly is reporting that New York City, long a popular destination for foreign tourists to the United States, is revising its estimates for 2017 tourism, and blaming Trump for it:

NYC & Company, New York’s tourism marketing organization, revised its 2017 travel forecast on Tuesday, stating that it expects 300,000 fewer international visitors than last year “in light of the recent travel ban and related rhetoric.”

“These updated figures take into account changing attitudes about travel and access to the U.S. since the previous forecast was announced in October 2016, prior to the new administration,” NYC & Company said in a statement issued on Tuesday. “This is the first drop in visitation since the start of the recession in 2008.”

The city anticipates that domestic visitation will remain strong, projected to increase to 49.3 million visitors this year, which would actually result in an overall visitor increase, from 60.7 million to 61.7 million.

“But, it’s important to note that it takes the spending power of four domestic visitors to equal what a single international visitor spends,” NYC & Company stated.

With the updated forecast, NYC & Company announced a new international communications and marketing campaign titled “New York City — Welcoming the World.” Beginning in March, the campaign will feature outdoor media valued at nearly $3 million targeting international source markets the United Kingdom, Mexico, Germany, and Spain, with more markets pending. International partners, including tour operators and airlines, are expected to help further the effort through their own channels and assets.

“The goal of the campaign is to reassure international travelers who may feel deterred about traveling to the U.S. and ensure them that New York City’s experiences and values remain the same and all are welcome,” the destination marketing organization stated.

In evaluating news like this, it’s important to remember not to fall for the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, of course. The fact that international tourism to the United States is down and expected to drop over the next year may correlate to Donald Trump’s election as President, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the drop is caused entirely by the results of the November election. There could be a number of factors, including but not limited to economic conditions elsewhere in the world that make it harder for foreigners to travel the long distances to the United States, the changing value of the dollar relative to other international currencies, seasonal factors impacting tourism (for example the fact that it’s still winter in the U.S.), and simple individual choice, that explain the reasons why there has been a noticeable drop in international travel. It’s also unclear from this news if this drop-off includes a drop in business-related travel as well as recreational travel. If it includes both, then it’s possible that some international companies are choosing to substitute technology such as video conferencing for travel as a cost-saving measure. Additionally, it’s not surprising that the relevant figures show a massive drop in travel from the seven countries impacted by Trump’s travel ban notwithstanding the fact that the ban itself is currently on hold thanks to a court order. Given the fact that the Administration has made it clear that it is intent on drafting a new order that would essentially reimpose the same ban, someone thinking of coming to the United States from one of those countries would be wise to think twice about it

All that being said, I also wouldn’t be surprised if Trump’s election has spurred some international travelers to choose destinations other than the United States for their recreational travels. From the press coverage I’ve monitored from international sources since well before Election Day it seems clear that international opinion, both in the press and among members of the public, of Trump is overwhelmingly negative. While government officials, with the exception of Mexican officials who have made it clear that their nation will not be paying for Trump’s border wall, have been as diplomatic as would be expected in dealing with Trump and the American government, the general consensus overseas among pundits, officials, and members of the public regarding the new President appears to be overwhelmingly negative. The few positive opinions one hears come from members of the far-right in Europe such as Marine Le Pen in France, Nigel Farage in the United Kingdom, and Geert Wilder in The Netherlands. The possibility that these negative opinions are already impacting travel choices is a real one that could have a real impact on the local economies of many parts of the United States ranging from New York City to Florida and California. Additionally, some reports from overseas in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s election in November indicated some concern on the part of foreign citizens about traveling to the United States even from putative allies such as France. Given this, the possibility that Trump’s election victory and subsequent entry into office may be impacting the decisions people overseas make should not be discounted.

Even if there is a “Trump Slump” in international tourism, though, it’s not at all clear that this will have a significant impact on the American economy in the short term. While international travel is an important revenue source for many parts of the country, the fact that we live in a nation of 300 million people, and are neighbors with nations like Canada and Mexico from which travel and tourism are, at least for the time being, very easy and straightforward, means that there’s already a ready-made market for tourism right here in the United States. Popular tourist sites like New York, Las Vegas, Hawaii, and places such as the Disney and other theme parts in Florida and California are likely to continue doing just fine regardless of what international travelers decide to do. Nonetheless, as noted above, international travelers do tend to outspend Americans by a significant amount when they come here. Given that, a significant drop-off in international travel that extends into the summer could hit some parts of the country in the pocketbook quite hard.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Pch101 says:

    Will the populists ever figure out that spending by foreign visitors helps to reduce the trade deficit? I doubt it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  2. Jane2 says:

    Speaking anecdotally from Canada, I don’t know anyone who plans on travelling to the US for a vacation in the next four years…the US is too unpredictable at the moment. As well, schools are across the country are cancelling/putting on hold US travel for their students.

    For the time being, I’ll go to MT border towns that have more in common with me than with DC, but only if the border officials remain pleasant – I don’t need cheap beer bad enough to put up with them exercising over-authority as has been widely reported.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  3. ltmcdies says:

    If an Australian children’s writer can run into difficulties at the American border…anyone can.

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/25/australian-childrens-author-mem-fox-detained-by-us-border-control-i-sobbed-like-a-baby

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  4. Pch101 says:

    This story has received international attention:

    A leading French historian was detained for 10 hours by US immigration officials and threatened with deportation after he arrived in Texas for a conference, it has been claimed.

    Henry Rousso, a pre-eminent scholar on the Holocaust, said he was held by border agents in Houston after authorities began to question his visa.

    The 62-year-old, who has taught at the prestigious Sorbonne in Paris and Columbia University in New York, said officials told him he had been selected for a “random check”, which the Egyptian-born academic claims was not some “mere coincidence”.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/french-historian-henry-rousso-us-immigration-deportation-10-hours-detention-holocaust-expert-a7601786.html

    I’m sure that this story will be fantastic for business. Terrific.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  5. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Muslims make up 23% of the worlds population, and we are telling them all not to come here.
    There are 422 million people in South America and we are telling them all not to come here.
    No wonder the fat orange blob in the White House managed to lose money in the Casino business.
    He’s just not very smart.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0

  6. JohnMcC says:

    Have to say that for the archetypical Trump supporter this is probably the purest possible case of ‘it’s a feature not a bug’.

    For some years I have approached everyone I meet who has traveled here and made a point of saying ‘thank you for coming to my country; it’s a better and more interesting place because you are here.’

    Gets me some funny looks. But, hell, I’m not the craziest old white guy they’ll see in Florida today. (Although my grandkids might say I’m close.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  7. CSK says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Don’t forget he also managed to go broke selling…vodka. Vodka, for Gawd’s sake. Who the hell loses money peddling booze and promoting gambling but a real…loser.

    Sad!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  8. MarkedMan says:

    As everyone over the age of twenty five eventually learns, when you are living through something that happens slowly it often takes a shout from someone outside to Make you aware of just how bad things have gotten. Outsiders realize just how racist, xenophobic and disfunctional our country has become. A number of us here make a distinction that it is the Republicans, and not the country as a whole that has embraced racism so thoroughly, but since the Republicans have complete control of the government, that is a distinction without a difference.

    50 years ago, the Republican Senator Jacob Javits warned his party with all his might that if they chose the Southern Strategy, if they chose to embrace the racists and xenophobes into the party In order to gain some votes, they would never be able to to push them out again. Now we have a Republican president who ran a business that marked applications from people of color with a “C” so they could be tossed aside. Whose father was arrested at a Ku Klux Klan rally in NYC. Who appoints as his senior advisor a apocalyptically paranoid racist like Steve Bannon and who sends an old style death squad iron curtain fascist to “defend” him on TV. The attorney general is a “distinguished” Republican Senator who made his bones by kicking Southern blacks to the curb. And the rest of the Republican leadership spends their political capital insuring no one gets investigated.

    This is a shameful time.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 0

  9. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @JohnMcC:
    I’ve never done that…but on a recent trip to Nova Scotia I experienced the very same thing in reverse. After 5 years years without ferry service from the US they were so glad to see us visiting.
    Most Americans have no idea that they have won the lottery just by virtue of being born here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  10. People that overstay their visa to work illegally in the United States are undistinguishable from common tourists. You can’t curb the first without affecting the latter, even if you doing that with care. And Trump is not doing that with care.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  11. Guarneri says:

    You guys are really getting desperate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 11

  12. CSK says:

    @Guarneri:

    About what?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. Pch101 says:

    @CSK:

    Guarneri will ask his overlords in Moscow and get back with you.

    Speaking of colluding with the Russians:

    Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general.

    One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.

    The previously undisclosed discussions could fuel new congressional calls for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential election. As attorney general, Sessions oversees the Justice Department and the FBI, which have been leading investigations into Russian meddling and any links to Trump’s associates. He has so far resisted calls to recuse himself.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/sessions-spoke-twice-with-russian-ambassador-during-trumps-presidential-campaign-justice-officials-say/2017/03/01/77205eda-feac-11e6-99b4-9e613afeb09f_story.html

    The upside is that there should be enough Russian operatives coming to visit their moles and lackeys that we should be able to make up for the lost tourism.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  14. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Pch101:
    Sessions is toast.
    We are going to have a special prosecuted investigating the orange blob in the White House a month into his so-called presidency.
    His taxes are going to have to be part of that.
    Good times.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  15. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    “In America, the Supreme Court and the American people believe no one is above the law,” he said. Sessions also voted “guilty” on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice during Clinton’s impeachment trial.

    You should never write karma checks you can’t cover.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  16. JohnMcC says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: Gosh just wrote this in an adjacent thread: Perjury is one of the charges that sent John Mitchell to prison for 19 months. It’s taken more seriously than, say, the Logan Act.

    Of course, no oral sex was involved. That we know of. With the Russian Ambassador.

    Except metaphorically.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. MarkedMan says:

    FWIW, the crackdown on borders cuts both ways. My son is going to visit friends in China over his spring break. Getting a a Chinese tourist visa has always been quite easy. I and my family submitted documentation and photos dozens of times before and during our time living there without any problem. Knowing that waiting in line at the embassy can take forever, we are using a professional service (CIBT – highly recommended) that handles thousands of such applications a year. And the Chinese government is slow walking the process. His picture was rejected a half dozen times for things like “the background is not white enough” (it was taken professionally with a white backdrop screen), “there is a shadow under his chin (barely noticeable), and my favorite “his ears are not showing enough”‘ this from a face on picture. When we got his picture taken for the third time I actually bought cotton balls to make his ears stick out. This is not just him, our contact tells us every tourist is going through this right now and even business travelers.

    Believe me, this is not normal. China has a gigantic tourism industry and does not normally antagonize people who want to spend money there. This is the effect of having a Republican xenophobic government in the US.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  18. MarkedMan says:

    Update: his Visa arrived today. I gues his ears are acceptable after all…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

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