It is now more than three weeks since America and the rest of the world woke up to the news that U.S. Electoral College math had made him the next president of the United States. Since then, the many tour and travel industry professionals who slipped into a Stage I condition of shock (no one, as far as we can tell, reached Stage II or the end point of Stage III—death) upon hearing of “President-elect” Trump seemed to have recouped and are back to focusing their energies on selling and marketing their product.
With few exceptions, overseas source markets seem to be moving along on a path toward sending increased numbers of visitors to the USA—except for one: Germany. There, particularly in its tour and travel industry sector, Trump’s rhetoric and public persona created such a turnoff that it could very well result in a downturn in German arrivals for the next year or so.
At the Inbound Report, we have noticed: the German travel trade news media has had published several articles to this effect; U.S. suppliers selling to Germany have told us that a fair number of buyers expect a fall-off in traffic to the U.S. next year; and, publicly, some industry insiders have said the same.
For instance, during a session at the International Digital Day session during NAJ’s recent RTO Summit in Orlando, while other panelists expected little to no impact on traffic to the USA from their key markets in Europe, Asia and South America, German expatriate Gisa Kusserow-Hansen, general manager, Florida, for AlliedTPro, told delegates, “tourism will be affected … and Donald Trump will be a reason that some people will go to another place for a year or two.”
It may be difficult to quantify such a Trump factor, as German arrivals to the U.S. were already off to a bad start for this year. Through April 2016—this is the last month for which office numbers are available from the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office—German arrivals to the USA were down 7 percent for the year vs. the same period in 2015. We prepared the following table to put the arrivals picture into a larger context.
So, how would one measure a Trump impact? The answer lies, perhaps, in what one U.S. supplier, fluent in German and with a long history of working the market, suggested to us. Just as the people in the industry who supported Trump were quiet up to, and after, election day, there are many people who still oppose him, but are remaining quiet.
Our source, who asked to remain anonymous, suggested that German operators will simply stop buying Visit USA product and start selling other destinations. Travel agents will do the same, he explained, and consumers will buy elsewhere. And some will cancel existing reservations and shift their resources to purchasing a holiday package at another destination.
This is what happened, he told us, upon the election of George W. Bush as U.S. President in 2000. With Bush extremely unpopular in Germany, many people simply cancelled travel plans and changed them. Or those who were thinking of coming to the USA booked their vacation elsewhere. While it is difficult to gauge causality, we took at closer look at German arrivals to the U.S. from the time Bush claimed victory (the election was on Nov. 7 in 2000) for the next 10 months—into the month of September, which gave us the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. Keep in mind that 2000 was already a bad year. The first 10 months of the Bush Administration coincided with (or caused, our source suggested) an even worse drop-off in U.S. arrivals.
Tui Might Tell Us: While hard numbers on this subject will be hard to come by, it just might be that Tui, the largest tour operator in Europe, will be in a position to tell us when it stages its May 2017 half-year financial advisory. Tui is now, it has proclaimed, the largest provider of U.S. product to German travelers. The operator recently announced its summer 2017 program, which includes around 200 new hotels and 30 new round trips itineraries. And in New York City, there is now a dedicated Tui service center right on Times Square, where guests are cared for two days a week.