No Trump slump as travel figures remain buoyant for US

World News | Published:

The US president’s campaign rhetoric does not appear to have deterred visitors.

Donald Trump is the 45th president of the United States (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Concerns that the US tourism industry might witness a “Trump slump” in travel due to the new administration’s policies appear to be premature, new figures suggest.

International arrivals and travel-related spending are up in 2017 compared with the same period in 2016.

There might even be a “Trump bump”, according to Roger Dow, chief executive of the US Travel Association, a non-profit representing the travel industry.

New York's skyline including the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building (Jon Buckle/Empics)
New York’s skyline including the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building (Jon Buckle/Empics)

A few months ago, some warned that President Donald Trump’s travel ban and anti-immigrant rhetoric could hurt tourism.

But the latest numbers from the US Travel Association showed a 4% growth in international travel to the US in April and a 5% growth in May compared with the same months last year.

Various individual sectors of the travel industry also report no declines so far.

The “impending doom hasn’t manifested itself”, Mr Dow said.


San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge (Noah Berger/PA)
San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge (Noah Berger/PA)

“Right now we cannot identify a loss. It’s contrary to everything we’ve heard, but travel is in slightly better shape than it was a year ago. Everyone wants me to tell the story of the sky is falling, but for the travel industry, the sky is not falling.”

Hotel occupancy for the first five months of 2017 was “higher than it has ever been before”, said Jan Freitag, senior vice president with STR, which tracks hotel industry data.

American Express Meetings & Events has “not seen a slowdown in either domestic US meetings or international meetings from the US in the past six months”, according to senior vice president Issa Jouaneh.


The Niagara Falls in the US (Ian West/PA)
The Niagara Falls in the US (Ian West/PA)

Even New York’s National September 11 Memorial and Museum has had more international visitors: 554,381 at the museum from January 1 to July 11, up from 517,539 in the same period last year.

Florida’s Orlando International Airport, a gateway for theme park visitors, reported growth for domestic and international passengers in the year to date, though Visit Orlando CEO George Aguel said it was “still premature to determine a specific impact” from Trump administration policies.

International trips are often planned months in advance, so decisions made this year about travel may not be evident yet.

“For us, we already planned before the election,” said Alban Michel, waiting with a group of Swiss tourists to see One World Trade’s observatory in New York on Monday.

Companies that track online behaviour say searches for are down.

Yet tour companies that bring foreigners here are “not only holding year over year, but in many cases they’re having a record year”, according to Chris Thompson, chief executive of Brand USA, which markets the US to the world.

The change in president does not appear to have affected visitors (Thibault Camus/AP/PA)
The change in president does not appear to have affected visitors (Thibault Camus/AP/PA)

Mr Thompson thinks it is “too early to tell” how the industry will fare, adding that the travel industry’s ups and downs may have “little or nothing to do” with Mr Trump and more to do with the strong dollar and lacklustre economies elsewhere.

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