The speculation over whether there is a causal relationship between the actions of U.S. President Donald Trump and the anemic performance this year of the inbound tourism industry in the United States spiked again early last week— as it has done every so often during the past year—with the publishing of the newest poll or set of survey results that show certain country markets (and/or the overall international inbound travel market) are sending fewer people to the USA.
So, the situation poses the question: Are President Trump and the policies he advocates causing international travelers not to visit the United States?
The question requires two answers. First, President Trump’s policies (and, it seems, his personality) are, in part, responsible for a slump in the amount of inbound travel to the United States—more for some country markets than for others. And, second, the real damage and impact of the Trump Slump might be systemic and long-term. That is, the damage could be long-term and require years to repair. Some further thoughts on the two answers follow.
- Yes, Trump’s Policies Have an Impact
First, the latest statistical salvo came early last week with the release of study from ForwardKeys—a young Valencia, Spain research and marketing company that has received a lot of attention of late because of the model it uses to develop its findings—showing that, since Jan. 27, 2017, when President Trump announced what turned out to be the first of three bans on travel from mostly Muslim-majority nations, there had been a 1.4 percent decline in international visitors vs. the same period in 2016.
(At about the same time the ForwardKeys report came out, a federal judge blocked implementation of the latest version of the Trump travel ban, which was directed at the citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen — and some Venezuelan government officials and their families.)
Meanwhile, from our own prepared tables, based on the preliminary results of the surveys of the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO), we found the drop-off in travel to the USA from abroad—though for a slightly different time period in 2016 and 2017—to be even greater than that calculated by ForwardKeys.
What about the Strong U.S. Dollar and its Impact?
While the dollar has had an impact for the past two-plus years, a recently stronger Canadian dollar and euro have actually produced increases in visitor numbers from Canada and some European nations (France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands). Otherwise, the decreases shown in the above table would be even greater.
- The Impact will also be Long-Term
When one contemplates the decrease in visitor numbers reflected in the ForwardKeys study and the data furnished by NTTO, it becomes clear that the impact of the Trump travel ban has extended well beyond the capacity of the eight nations affected as, collectively, they send few visitors to the United States. But each time the globally unpopular travel ban gets mentioned in news reports, according to one article, “travelers around the world are turned off and shy away from visiting this country.”
This effect has been especially pronounced in Mexico, where public opinion on President Trump’s overall positions on immigration reflects outrage, as well as an all-time record low for approval of a U.S. President; earlier this year, Trump registered a 5 percent approval rating among Mexicans. (Meanwhile, visitation to the United States for the first five months of 2017 was down by 6.1 percent vs. the same period last year.)
But worse is the corresponding attitude that Mexicans have about the United States as a whole. Among Mexican, the percentage who have a favorable perception of the United States is the lowest it’s been in the past 15 years, while the percentage of those who have an unfavorable perception of the United States has reached an all-time high for the same period.
ut, in Spite of all of the Above … the USA is still No. 1: At NAJ’s recent RTO Summit six weeks ago in Orlando, David Reichbach, director of analytics and data security for San Francisco-based Destination Analysts, highlighted some findings from the company’s 2017 State of the International Traveler report showing just how well the USA fares as a destination. For the report, Destination Analysts surveyed 14 U.S. feeder markets: Canada, Mexico, Brazil, China, Japan, India, Australia, Germany France, UK, Argentina, South Korea, Netherlands and Italy. Overall the company tracks more than 65 America destinations by familiarity, appeal, likelihood of visitation, promotional buzz and “bragging rights.” Following are two tables which show that the USA remains a durable and desirable destinations from the 14 key markets.