Key Receptive Tour Operators Foresee a Healthy 2017: It may be that, when it became clear in the early morning hours of Nov. 9 that Donald J. Trump was President-elect of the U.S., there was some weeping and gnashing of the teeth among the thousands of delegates at the last day of the World Travel Market in London where the news seemed dire. But, as a London cabbie told one U.S. supplier passenger when asked what he thought about the matter, the driver replied: “Why would anybody stay away from a holiday in the U.S. simply because there’s a whacko in the White House?”
And that, but for the brevity and bluntness of the London cabbie, is the essence of what most on a panel of receptive tour operators at the first day of the NAJ Group’s RTO Summit in Orlando seemed to believe. Expatriates all, the panel was comprised Uri Argov, CEO, Tourico Holidays, a company with global reach; Jay Santos, managing director USA for, Trend Travel USA, which focuses primarily on Brazil; Pabs Raghava, CEO, Tours Limited, which serves the Indian market; and Gisa Kusserow-Hanson, general manager, Florida, AlliedTPro.
The moderator for the session—the NAJ Group’s Florian Hermann, himself an expatriate from Germany—got the panel right to the point in a program segment titled, “How Will a Donald Trump Presidency Affect International Tourism Arrivals?” by asking each operator to rank, from zero to 10, with zero being a worst case scenario and 10 being the best possible situation, their outlook for the future of inbound tourism to the USA under a President Trump. Graphically, here is what the responses looked like.
Here are some of their comments:
—“I don’t think there will be any effect on business,” Argov declared. “The USA is the place to travel in terms of service and experiences.” Politics, he added, “is at the end of the day” in business considerations. Much of apprehension over a Trump presidency, he observed, came with the way the news was reported in the first two or three hours that the result of the election became apparent. “The media can be so one-sided,” he said, asserting that his company “will see an increase in traffic … we cannot let out political feelings into our business. It’s not about us. It’s about our client.”
—“I agree with Uri,” said Raghava. With her company in the midst of contracting for 2017, she indicated that “we do not see any impact” on business because of a prospective Trump presidency, adding, “It’s not going to be a negative or a difficulty … things look pretty good for us.”
—After acknowledging that the news of Trump’s election caused a number of WTM delegates to worry, Santos addressed the situation in quantitative terms, pointing out that the long-haul market to the U.S. is about one percent of the Brazilian population, emphasizing that “That one percent loves the U.S.” Santos suggested that talk of more restrictive U.S. visa policies could be a challenge and he expressed the hope that Trump, himself the owner of a number of hotels, would be sensitive to industry needs, closing with “I don’t see any problems.”
—“Guess I’m the party pooper here,” said Kusserow-Hanson with a trace of a smile. She suggested that for some markets (see next article on German trade reaction) a President Trump “will be a reason that some people will want to go to another place for a year or two … we’ll see a smaller volume from some markets (but) we’re not going to see a boycott or something like that.” She noted, however, “I do see an increase in business as well—not because of Trump—but because some markets are ready.”