The U.S. travel industry has been predicting a “Trump slump” – i.e., a drop-off in foreign visitors due to the Administration’s tougher entry policies – and terrorist events in Europe were also expected to inhibit international travel. But so far, none of that seems to be happening.
U.S. travel officials expected to see evidence of the so-called Trump slump starting in April, following the Administration’s attempts – subsequently thwarted by the courts – to ban arrivals from several Muslim-majority countries and to generally impose “extreme vetting” on foreign arrivals.
But the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) said this week that instead of dropping, the number of foreign visitors to the U.S. actually increased in April by 4 percent over the same month a year ago.
USTA president Roger Dow admitted that the organization is “surprised” by that increase, citing it as ”evidence of the U.S. travel sector’s remarkable resilience.” Still, he urged the Trump Administration to make it clear that foreign visitors are still welcome.
“Even though we’re encouraged by these strong figures, we’ll continue to urge the administration to more publicly send the message that while the U.S. is closed to terror, it remains open for business,” Dow said. “We should not take it for granted that this trend will sustain, and the 15.3 million American jobs that depend on travel are not worth putting at risk. A simple and clear welcome message will go a long way in that regard.”
That rise in international arrivals did not hold true in all markets. April arrivals from the U.K. were down 6 percent – and that was well before the latest flap between Trump and London’s mayor. The U.S. ban on in-cabin laptops on flights from the Middle East and North Africa is also likely hurting traveler numbers in those markets, as evidenced by Emirates’ recent decision to scale back flight frequencies to the U.S.
The travel industry news website Skift.com reported a similar finding from the annual meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) – the leading global airline trade organization — this week in Cancun. Skift interviewed airline CEOs from Europe and Latin America and found no indications of a Trump slump in their traffic to the U.S.
Bloomberg News was also at the IATA conference, and its interviews with the chiefs of International Airlines Group (parent of British Airways and Iberia) and Lufthansa likewise found no evidence that that the latest terror attacks in Europe were having a negative impact on inbound traffic. Similar events in previous years were usually followed by a fall-off in visitors.
“It would be terrible if people start just considering that this is routine or normal, but we haven’t seen an impact on bookings,” IAG CEO Willie Walsh told Bloomberg News. “In the past, we would expect it to have some impact, but we haven’t seen anything.”