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What does the ‘Trump slump’ mean for your trip to the US?

Clues that Donald Trump’s presidency and policies are negatively impacting US tourism are starting to surface. But what exactly is the ‘Trump slump’ and what does it mean for you?

What does the ‘Trump slump’ mean for your trip to the US?
The Statue of Liberty. Image: iStockphoto

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Have you been California or New York dreaming but are worried that America’s strong dollar, combined with our plummeting pound, means a holiday to the USA is now off the table?

Fear not, your old friend Donald J, clearly honouring our ‘special relationship’, is making political moves that may result in some US travel bargains for us Brits.

Since the POTUS’ controversial travel ban (designed to block citizens of six Muslim-majority countries from entering the US for a temporary 90-day period) was announced, there have been reports of a significant global drop in interest in travel to the States.

Patrick Surry, from travel booking website Hopper, released data showing that international flight searches to the USA dropped 17% on the day Trump initially announced the travel ban. Overall, Hopper has seen a 22% global decline in flight searches to the US (with the notable exception of Russia, for which demand has steeply risen by 66%).

Similarly, travel comparison site Kayak reported that UK searches to US destinations have ‘fallen off a cliff’. The site released data showing an over-50% drop in searches for flights to Tampa, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Miami when compared to last year, along with similar seismic drops in interest for San Diego (-43%), Las Vegas (-36%), and Los Angeles (-32%).

The Global Business Travel Association has estimated that in the first week Trump’s original travel ban came into effect, the US lost $185m in revenue from visitors. Meanwhile, New York City tourism agency, NYC & Company, reversed its pre-election prediction of a 400,000 increase in international visitors in 2017, and is now forecasting 300,000 fewer tourists than 2016 — the first drop in travellers since the 2008 global recession.

So what does all this dry data matter to you? Well, dear readers, it means there could be cheap holidays ahead. Kayak has stated that hotel prices in New York City, Las Vegas and Los Angeles have decreased more than in any other destination on Earth, as the US tourism industry goes into panic and scrambles to attract visitors.

Arthur Frommer, founder of Frommer’s travel guides, is singing from the same hymn sheet, writing on his blog in March 2017 that tourists can now find ‘…airfare bargains resulting from the decline in transatlantic travel by foreigners discouraged from visiting the US by the general anti-foreigner rhetoric of the Trump administration.’

And why wouldn’t British tourists seek to visit the country? Well, Roger Dow, president of the US Travel Association, fears many international travellers have interpreted Trump’s policies as “wanting to discourage international visitors generally.” Which means that, despite the dollar’s current strength against sterling, thick-skinned Brits could take advantage of a US tourism industry on red alert… if they decide they’re still happy to go.

Official US tourism figures are yet to be released, but it’s clear that many travel experts are realising the States’ new commander-in-chief’s policies and abrasive public profile could be damaging the tourism industry.

Nevertheless, imploring British holidaymakers to keep coming, Jonathan Sloan, chair of Visit USA, insists “the variety, beauty, diversity, and friendly people of the US hasn’t changed. There has simply been a management change at the top; that shouldn’t impact your holiday choice.”

Q&A

How does the travel ban affect me?
The travel restrictions only block citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from visiting the USA. The majority of these six countries’ citizens are Muslim, which is why many, including the attorney general of New York, are calling the restrictions “a Muslim ban by another name.”

Is The ban really the cause of dwindling usA tourism?
If UK visitor numbers to the US are proven to be in decline, it could be as much about Brexit, which has seen the pound lose value against the US dollar, making Stateside travel more expensive.

Are Trump hotels doing any deals?
Trump’s titular chunk of the tourism industry isn’t officially running any promotions, either in celebration of Donald’s presidency, nor as a result of his policy.

Published in the May 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)