President Trump and Tourism
I write this article two days after the election of Donald Trump as President elect of the USA. As President Obama predicted, the sun did rise on the day after the US elections and the USA is still “one of the greatest” countries on earth (I know Obama said the greatest). Although the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency has surprised and shocked most political pundits and many travel industry professionals its now time to have a sober look at what a Trump presidency will mean for US tourism and the wider world. The first thing to understand about Donald Trump from a tourism perspective is that he comes to office as the most tourism savvy president in American history.
His company has developed hotels, resorts, golf courses and casinos in and outside the USA. Not all have been commercially successful but Trump has set high standards in service, comfort and appointments in the luxury hotel and resort category. One of Trump’s key policy objectives has been the rapid upgrading of transport infrastructure in the United States. If we look at the single issue of airports, Trump has readily acknowledged that major US gateway airport are well below world standard. Trump is committed to addressing this issue. Not only will the upgrade of infrastructure generate jobs it will also generate tourism. In 2015, the US attracted 77.5 million international tourists ranking the US as the second most visited tourism destination in the world after France which has had its own major challenges this year. The USA ranks number 1 in the world in tourism income. It is Trump’s belief and one shared widely within the US tourism industry that some major upgrades to tourism infrastructure and a more prominent marketing campaign could make the USA the world’s most visited tourism destination within a few years.
Of course Trump’s election is not without potential problems on the tourism front. He made many controversial remarks about Mexicans during the campaign. Legal Mexican tourists make up 18.4 million of America’s tourists arrivals. There is a possibility that those numbers may decrease. Trump’s campaign remarks about Muslims may create a two edged problem. The first is that Muslims from all over the world may feel reluctant to visit the USA. The second is that airlines from predominantly Muslim countries, including global powerhouses such as Emirates and Etihad may review their connections to the USA. There are questions over whether the USA may tighten visa entry requirements. While I am not suggesting these things will necessarily occur, they remain a possibility, both for countries currently on the visa waiver program and those who are not.
The suggestion made by some sections of the British press that millions of British will boycott travel to the USA because they loathe Trump are unfounded speculation which should be treated with contempt. While a Trump presidency may well be politically repellent to some prospective visitors to the USA it will be attractive to others as the US election results themselves demonstrated. Ironically, the Trump ascendency may prove a boom for tourism to Slovenia, the birthplace of the First Lady to be, Melania Trump. Slovenia is a beautiful destination but Melania will give it some star quality it has hitherto never enjoyed.
Although Euromonitors released a fairly pessimistic outlook for US tourism following a Trump presidential victory I tend to be far more optimistic. I believe that many people in the world will be intrigued to experience USA under a Trump administration although the occupant of the White House has negligable impact on their tourism experience of the USA. It’s very likely that tourism to the USA from key tourism generating countries including Korea, Japan, China and Russia may actually grow. Of course it should be understood that what presidential candidates say on the campaign trail and what they actually do in office are usually very different.
I am far from convinced that every pledge and promise made by Trump will necessarily come to pass. We have four years and two months to find out.