Politics

Trump slump in travel? Maybe, maybe not

 

(This is a slightly updated version of my story about the Trump Slump in Travel that appeared on NBC)

 

Is an unwelcoming political climate really creating a “Trump Slump” in the annual $250 billion international inbound business and leisure travel industry in the United States?

“Yes,” “No,” and “Maybe So,” say travel industry experts and number crunchers who point to a variety of hard and soft data points to measure the travel impact of initiatives such as President Donald Trump’s efforts to impose a travel ban barring inbound travelers from some predominantly Muslim countries and the recent ban on electronic devices in the airline cabins of U.S.-bound airplanes from certain countries.

On the up side, international visitors spent more than $20.8 billion on travel to, and on tourism-related activities within, the United States in January 2017, according to a recent report from the National Travel and Tourism Office.

That represents a one percent ($220 million) increase compared to 2016.

Looking back a bit longer, in the 60 days before Trump’s first travel ban was announced (November 29 to January 27, 2017) ForwardKeys, a company that analyzes air travel bookings, found international bookings for visits into the U.S. increased 2.2 percent in comparison to the same period last year.

But right after Trump issued the first travel ban, search engines such as Hopper saw a serious slip in flight searches into the U.S. and in the eight days following January 27 (the day the travel ban was first imposed) ForwardKeys saw international bookings to the U.S. fall by 6.5 percent.

Since then, there’s been a continued slow-down in U.S.-bound air travel bookings.

From January 28 to March 25, bookings were essentially flat, up just. 0.1 percent over the same period last year, according to ForwardKeys.

“When one bears in mind that as a general rule air travel grows consistently ahead of inflation, this is not a particularly encouraging statistic for the USA,” ForwardKeys CEO Oliver Jager told NBC.

The World Travel & Tourism Council agrees. Its data predicts that visitor exports, which is money spent by foreign visitors in the country, will decrease by 0.6 percent in 2017.

Though also attributable to the strength of the U.S. dollar, the dip is predominantly due to “the negative sentiments of the U.S. as a destination created by some of the new policies of President Trump’s Administration,” said Helen Marano, WTTC’s Senior Vice President Government Affairs. “Already, there have been clear signs and data that international visitors are rethinking booking their holidays to the U.S.”

But in a Travel Trends Index report released Tuesday, the U.S. Travel Association said that international travel to the U.S. “defied growth expectations” and actually grew faster than domestic travel during February.

But the group warns of a drop-off in international travel going forward.

The February TTI data — which factors in trips that involve a hotel stay and/or air travel — captures the first full month after President Trump’s first travel ban order was issued, but the U.S. Travel Association economists say that data fully doesn’t fully reflect the impact of the currently-on-hold ban’s impact on demand for international travel to the U.S.

“It’s important to remember that there’s a significant lag time between searches for international trips and when they’re actually taken — typically a matter of months,” said David Huether, the U.S. Travel Association’s senior vice president for research.

“There’s a lot of data out there purporting to show a drop in international travel to the U.S. because of President Trump’s executive order,” said Huether, but “the reality is we do not have a definitive data picture of the order’s impact yet.”

While we wait to get more data and find out whether or not the Trump administration’s travel ban go into effect, “the United States has already sent a message to the global community,” said Ian Jeffries, Vice President, Group Director at public relations and marketing firm Edelman, “We are counseling clients that there is an opportunity for the travel industry to lead and roll out the welcome mat. Tourism business leaders have the responsibility to let the world know that their cities, their hotels, their attractions are still open for business – – and that all travelers are welcome.”

 

Travel Tidbits: Travel Ban + Air Canada

In the news as the week ends…

A federal appeals court refused to reinstate President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

Trump’s response:

Meanwhile…

Air Canada is celebrating its 80th anniversary and on Thursday had a series of events in several Canadian cities  to introduce a new livery design and new employee uniforms.

The new design will eventually appear on Air Canada‘s fleet of 300 mainline and regional aircraft, but the first three aircraft sporting the new livery are already flying.

Stay tuned to StuckatTheAirport.com this weekend for a report on my 24 hour  – intended – stay at Charles de Gaulle Airport, with an overnight at the new in-terminal Yotel.  Plotting out my meals, my shopping and my sleeping in a tiny, windowless cabin.

 

Trump is making trouble for the travel industry

Formal and informal actions taken by the new U.S. President are already having a huge impact on many parts of the travel industry.

Here’s a shortened version of a piece I wrote for NBC News this week:

The travel industry was already fretting about Donald Trump even before he won the U.S. presidential election. Remember this tweet from Royal Jordanian Airlines?

This weekend, the airline posted a more somber message, following President Donald Trump’s executive order restricting travel into the U.S. for people from seven majority-Muslim countries:

United, Delta, Emirates, Etihad and other domestic and international airlines are scrambling to make rebooking options and refunds available in light of Friday’s executive order.

Trump’s “extreme vetting” measure is being challenged in courts and strongly denounced from many corners of the travel industry — and could have ripple effects for America’s tourism dollars.

“The ambiguity of these very latest developments introduced by President Trump is casting a shadow over the future travel demand to and from the U.S., especially as many trade representatives are concerned that such changes could bring similar types of retaliation from other countries,” said Nadejda Popova, Euromonitor Travel Project Manager.

“The new executive order could also impact how the U.S. is perceived as a tourism destination and how open to foreign travelers it will be in the future,” she added.

Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who came to the U.S. from Iran in 1978, sent an email to employees saying Trump’s executive order portrays the United States as “inward-looking versus forward thinking, reactionary versus visionary.”

On Monday, Expedia joined Amazon in filing a declaration as part of Washington State’s lawsuit against Trump and the Department of Homeland Security that seeks a temporary restraining order against the enforcement of the ban.

“We are generally not aggressive against issues that do not relate to our company,” Khosrowshahi told the New York Times, “But this is travel, our soul and spirit, and we felt we had to respond. Honestly, it was not a debate whether we should we be involved.”

Elsewhere, TripAdvisor CEO Steve Kaufer shared a LinkedIn post saying the company was against this executive order “not just because we are a global business with a diverse workforce, but because we are human beings and citizens who respect and love the fabric of our nation.”

And on Tuesday, the United Nations World Travel Organization issued a statement expressing “deep concern and strong condemnation” of the U.S. travel ban.

“Global challenges demand global solutions and the security challenges that we face today should not prompt us to build new walls,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai in the statement. “On the contrary, isolationism and blind discriminatory actions will not lead to increased security but rather to growing tensions and threats.”

Rifai added that, “Besides the direct impact, the image of a country which imposes travel bans in such a hostile way will surely be affected among visitors from all over the world and risk dumping travel demand to the U.S.A.”

You can still buy campaign memorabilia at DCA & Dulles Airports.

bobble-heads

Whether your candidate won or lost last night, you can still stock up on souvenir memorabilia from this year’s Presidential campaign in a variety of shops at both Dulles International and Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton bobble head dolls were the big sellers this season, according to Market Place Development – the company that operates the concessions at both airports – as were Trump and Clinton candy bars, Donald Trump plush toys, and Hillary Clinton “We Can Do It!” coffee mugs.

trump-plush-doll

hillary-mug

PHL Airport readies for DNC

PHL Betsy Ross Flag

Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross and Alexander Hamilton (characters…) are getting ready to hand out 13-star Colonial flags and otherwise entertain passengers when Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) welcomes the delegates, party officials, journalists and spectators traveling to the city for the Democratic National Convention (DNC), taking place July 25-28.

“Many of these folks will be traveling by air to Philadelphia for the convention, and the airport will be their first impression of the City. We want to make sure it’s a positive one,” said Airport CEO Chellie Cameron.

Beginning Friday, July 22, airport staff will fan through the terminals to greet and assist delegates. And volunteers from the DNC Host Committee and the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) will be in the baggage claim areas to help convention attendees.

Inside the airport, visitors will be hear The Sound of Philadelphia – a playlist of popular songs by Philadelphia’s own legendary producers and songwriters Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.

In the baggage claim areas on Saturday and Sunday, July 23-24, visitors will be treated to complimentary Philadelphia-centric Tastykakes and soft pretzels while Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross, and Alexander Hamilton hand out Colonial flags.

There’s more:

There will be a pop-up movie theater in the B/C bag claim, courtesy of the Bryn Mawr Film Institute and History Making Productions, showing short documentaries about the city’s cultural and innovative history;

Shops and restaurants will have special sales and DNC merchandise for purchase;

The airport’s landscape is getting a tidying up and taxis are being offered a free wash in advance of the convention;

And, to get ready for the departure of attendees on Friday, July 29, the Transportation Security Administration will have extra screeners on duty.

And don’t forget the art:

PHL Political pins

An exhibition – Philadelphia’s History of Presidential Conventions, 1848-Present (in Terminal A-East) highlights the 12 Presidential conventions the city has hosted. The 11th took place in 2000 when Philadelphia was the site of the Republican National Convention