Back in the not-so-distant past, the U.S. was a top travel destination. It wasn’t just Disney World that was the happiest place in the world people wanted to visit. Not anymore. Since Donald Trump took office, inbound tourism into the U.S. has fallen sharply. The latest data from the National Travel and Tourism Office shows a four-percent decline in inbound travel and a 3.3% drop in travel spending. That translates into $4.6 billion in lost spending and the loss of 40,000 jobs.
The lack of tourists visiting America has resulted in the U.S. giving up its long-held spot as the second most popular tourist destination (behind France) to Spain.
International travel to the U.S. began to falter as soon as Trump entered the Oval Office. While some have cited the strong U.S. dollar as being a hurdle for those looking for a cost-efficient holiday, others point to Trump’s exclusive attitudes on immigration and race.
For instance, Trump’s proposed travel bans, which cast a net on an entire religion, cannot have helped make the U.S. an attractive destination for travelers. Trump’s call for a border wall with Mexico is not the kind of welcome mat visitors from around the world will look fondly at.
Heightened security measures and border guards that can search your cell phone for no apparent reason does not sit well either, with even the most law-abiding tourists from Norway. Even a growing number of Canadian tourists no longer feel welcome when they get to the U.S. border and have to deal with customs.
Trump’s alleged “s***hole countries” comment certainly won’t help boost U.S. tourism either.
“It’s not a reach to say the rhetoric and policies of this administration are affecting sentiment around the world, creating antipathy toward the U.S. and affecting travel behavior,” said Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics.
To combat sliding international tourism, billions of dollars in lost economic activity, and the loss of 40,000 jobs, the U.S. Travel Association has announced it will launch a “Visit U.S.” initiative to convince tourists that the U.S. is a great, friendly, welcoming, inclusive country worth visiting.
There is a country in close proximity to the U.S. that is experiencing a boom in tourism: Cuba. The communist country has seen inbound tourism rise significantly since Trump took office, despite Trump rolling back more Cuba-friendly policies from the Obama era.
In 2017, a year where American tourism fell four percent, a record 4.7 million people visited Cuba, pumping more than $3.0 billion into the country’s struggling economy. Many of those visitors are coming from the U.S. The number of Americans visiting Cuba in 2017 increased by 619,000; more than six times the pre-Obama levels.
Trump’s “America First” platform might be designed to help strengthen the U.S. economy, but it also seems to be alienating the U.S. and hurting those who voted for Trump.
“Tourism to U.S. under Trump is down, costing $4.6B and 40,000 jobs,” NBC News, January 23, 2018.
“International Tourism to the U.S. Declined in Early 2017,” The New York Times, September 19. 2017.
“Tourism booming in Cuba despite tougher new Trump policy,” CNBC, January 19, 2018.