As if the proximity of the White House—it was less than a mile away from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. and IPW 2017—made the Trump Administration’s presence palpable, Carroll Rheem, vice president of research and analytics for Brand USA, opened the session by saying, “First, I want to talk about the elephant in the room. There’s no way you get around it. Politics.” (There were very few references by officials from Brand USA or the U.S. Travel Association to “President Trump,” Instead, the word “politics” was employed.)
Rheem went on to say that, yes, it’s had an impact on those who decided not to come to the U.S. in Brand USA’s most recent proprietary survey: 30 percent of those choosing not to come to the U.S. cited politics as their reason for not coming. However, she questioned results of some surveys that showed double-digit declines in arrivals to the U.S. as a result of Trump-related proposals and rhetoric.
(Rheem’s mention of “double-digit” numbers was a not-so-subtle reference to a recent survey report put out by Foursquare, an app used primarily by younger travelers, claiming a decline in U.S. market share of 11 percent from the fourth quarter of 2016 through the first quarter of 2017.)
Yet, when it comes to actual bookings to the U.S. in the near-term future, Sabre had just reported a year-on-year increase of 3 percent and Global Agency Pro reported an increase of 4 percent. Yes, she said, politics is having an impact on intent-to-travel, but not in the ranges of 8 or 11 percent that some sources have reported.
Rheem said that BUSA’s own numbers show that, for the key markets of Germany, Australia and Canada, intent-to-travel is more like 2-3 percent down. And, for Mexico, which one would expect to be the most impacted, intent-to-travel was less than 10 percent.
The following day, Roger Dow, president and CEO of US Travel, pointed out that its Travel Trends Index showed that the estimate of international arrivals for the month of April—which would have been the first month to shown the impact of bookings made in the first months of the Trump Administration—were up one percent over the previous year.
Meanwhile, Christopher Thompson, Brand USA’s president and CEO, pointed to the fact that, according to its research, the organization’s promotional activities had generated 4.3 million incremental visitors over four years.