Well, that didn’t take long. People around the world have taken a look at Donald Trump and decided his America is not a place they want to visit. The result has been labeled the “Trump Slump,” a drop in international tourism that’s predicted to cost the United States more than $7 billion. Experts across the travel industry have sounded the alarm that the Trump presidency, already destructive on so many fronts, may also do serious financial damage to the country’s $250 billion tourism sector.
Frommer’s, a prominent travel guide, notes that “the prestigious Travel Weekly magazine (as close to an ‘official’ travel publication as they come) has set the decline in foreign tourism at 6.8 percent” for this year. ForwardKeys, which crunches travel numbers, points to a 6.5 percent downturn in international travel to the U.S. in the week after Trump attempted to issue the Muslim travel ban in January. During the same period, the company found reservations for U.S.-bound flights from Western Europe fell 14 percent and plunged 38 percent from across the Middle East. And a survey released this month by the Global Business Travel Association concluded “45 percent of European business travel professionals say they are less likely to schedule meetings or events in the U.S.,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
The numbers offer evidence that Trump has turned off potential visitors from around the world. The resounding message of Trump’s “America First” stance, his obsession with the Mexico border wall, his anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policies, his Muslim ban, and his rudeness to longstanding allies is that America is inhospitable to foreigners. Predictably, international travelers are opting to stay away—and that includes the European ones that Trump and his supporters are totally cool with.
“Even white, Anglo-Saxon people, who are most of our customers, they are afraid of crossing the border,” Al Qanun, who runs a Toronto travel agency, told the Times. “They don’t want to end up in some prison.”
Among the innumerable costs of Trump’s and his follower’s nationalism are a few you can actually put a price tag on. Tourism Economics, which uses data to forecast travel trends, expects the international tourism drop-off to result in a revenue loss of $7.4 billion, according to Bloomberg News. That figure doesn’t include contributions from those who come to the U.S. for medical treatments or educational reasons, and who tend to spend even more money, enriching American coffers, while they’re here. The loss of all those visitors could mean future problems for a sector on which more than 15 million people rely for employment. Oxford Economics suggests the toll may ultimately ripple beyond the travel industry, even reducing the U.S. gross domestic product by a few percentage points, per Market Watch.
“I’ll tell you quite honestly, when I saw these reports my reaction was, Oh, my god,” Douglas Quinby, of travel-market firm PhocusWright, told the Boston Globe. “To see a decline in search and booking volume in the 6- to 8-percent range is a profound shift.”
Travel industry insiders aren’t just freaking out, they’re trying to stop the trend in its tracks. Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, penned an open letter to Trump, as if he could be reasoned with.
“Mr. President, please tell the world that while we’re closed to terror, we’re open for business,” the brief letter nearly pleads. “Imbalanced communication is especially susceptible to being ‘lost in translation’—so let’s work together to inform our friends and neighbors, who could benefit from reassurance, not just who is no longer welcome here, but who remains invited.”
The coastal cities where Trump fared the worst in the election are likely to be hardest hit by travel downswings triggered by his administration. Bloomberg cites New York, Los Angeles and Miami as cities that could suffer heavy economic losses. One estimate suggests Miami could lose as much as $736 million over the next three years. Thirty percent of all foreign tourists arriving in the U.S. have New York City as their destination, and if just 300,00 fewer of them visited the city in a year, its economy would be shorted roughly $900 million. To stave off those kinds of losses, NYC & Co., the city’s official tourism agency, has adopted “All Are Welcome” as its new slogan and made it clear it opposes the Trump travel ban.
The rise of Trump and his xenophobic messaging has motivated a number of countries to warn their citizens against non-essential trips to the U.S. The Nigerian government, citing “a few cases of Nigerians with valid multiple-entry U.S. visas being denied entry and sent back,” suggested its residents skip the jaunt to America if they have a choice. In January, the Toronto Star published an editorial suggesting Canadian citizens boycott the U.S. in response to the Trump Muslim ban.
Other negative reactions to America’s longstanding social issues and rising right-wing policies began to take hold even before Trump office. Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Bahamas, the U.K., Germany and New Zealand all issued 2016 U.S. travel warnings to citizens due to the U.S.’ issues with mass shootings, general gun violence, police murders of black citizens, anti-LGBT bathroom laws, and ongoing social upheaval.
With Trump and his white nationalist brigade in charge, the tourism lag could dip to levels not seen since after the World Trade Center attacks.
“The U.S. is in danger of taking the same path it took after September 11, which led to a decade of economic stagnation in the travel and tourism sector,” David Scowsill, CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council, told the Globe. “Strict visa policies and inward-looking sentiment led to a $600 billion loss in tourism revenues in the decade post-9/11.”
Trump and his followers will definitely find a way to blame President Obama if the tourism decline persists, but in reality, under the previous administration foreign visits went way up. Bloomberg cites data from U.S. Travel indicating that from 2006 to 2015, “America saw international visitors rise, with arrivals increasing from 51 million in 2006 to nearly 78 million in 2015.”
Perhaps under Trump, Russia can fill the growing gap and make up the difference. Flight app Hopper found Russia is an exception to the rule, with U.S. flight search queries recently increasing 88 percent, per the Guardian.