Travel experts began warning even before the 2016 election that Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric could cause a decline in tourism. So has the so-called “Trump slump” arrived?
Stephen Mumford, a professor of metaphysics at Durham University in north-east England, had some money to burn thanks to a large research fellowship grant he was awarded in October 2016. Always eager to travel to other countries and present his research, he began making arrangements for trips to several academic conferences in the United States.
Then Donald Trump won the November 2016 election.
By Jessica Lussenhop
In his first month in office, the Trump administration imposed a travel ban on seven majority-Muslim countries, and empowered US Customs and Border Protection agents to enforce immigration laws more assertively at ports of entry.
Mumford started to hear stories he didn’t like – like the British Muslim school teacher who was separated from his students and removed from a flight bound for the US, or that incoming travelers were being asked to turn over their mobile phones and social media passwords.
Last month, Mumford made what he says was a difficult decision: to cancel all his planned travel to the US.
“I don’t want to go to a conference if other people are excluded simply because they belong to a particular group,” he says.
“I don’t feel I can just walk in and think, ‘I’m OK’, and forget the guy behind me can’t come in just because he’s a Muslim. That’s being a party to the unfairness.”
Mumford is not alone.
Thousands of professors around the globe have pledged not to travel to the US.
A growing list of Canadian schools who once made regular trips across the border for sports, music and other educational events are cancelling their journeys for fear that foreign-born students could be singled out.
In Philadelphia, at least one large conference worth an estimated $7m in revenue to the city has been cancelled, and the tourism board of New York City recently reversed its pre-election projection that the city would see an increase of 400,000 international travellers in 2017.
The board now predicts 300,000 fewer foreign tourists will visit the Big Apple this year than did in 2016.
Anecdotes like these are the worst fears of travel industry analysts, who’ve been warning for weeks that the US could be entering a tourism “Trump slump”.
The online booking site Kayak reported that searches by UK citizens for US destinations had “fallen off a cliff”, and that hotel prices in cities like San Francisco, New York and Las Vegas dropped between 32-39%.
Hopper, another travel site, released data showing that searches for flights to America had dropped globally an average of 22%.
By contrast, the online travel agent site Tripsta reported a spike in one-way flights from the UK to the US in January and February of 2017, but hypothesised the cause could be “the return of non-US nationals concerned about restrictions to international travel”.
The Global Business Travel Association estimated that for the week Trump’s travel ban was in effect, the US lost $185m in travel bookings (£150m).
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