American travel industry leery of Trump effect

John Biers –
American tourism companies are seeing early signs that US President Donald Trump’s still-young administration is hitting foreign visits and fear “destination USA” could suffer further in the years to come.
Travel industry executives in particular expressed anguish over Trump’s proposed travel ban on visitors from seven predominately Muslim countries, an issue the US president raised anew this week in the wake of the London attacks.
“When you hear words like ‘travel ban’, it puts a big chill” on business, James Murren, chief executive of MGM Resorts, said during a panel discussion at a travel industry conference hosted by New York University.
Industry insiders also see Trump’s tough “America first” talk as hostile to potential visitors.
“We need to address the Trump administration and its policies,” said Roger Dow, president of the US Travel Association in a news conference.
Early figures suggest travel to the United States from all international markets is running about flat in 2017 compared with the year-ago period, said Marriott chief executive Arne Sorenson.
But the data also suggests a decline of 20 per cent in visitors from the Middle East and Mexico.
Sorenson, a critic of the travel ban, fears the US market will suffer in the next three to five years even as global travel continues to grow.
“The US share will decline because we’ll see more and more people go to Europe and other destinations where the reception seems to be warmer,” Sorenson said.
Jonathan Tisch, chief executive of Loews Hotel & Co, said one of Loews’ hotels in Miami has had groups cancel because they had attendees from a travel ban country.
Internationally known US tourist destinations include an array of spectacular national parks in the western part of the United States, amusement parks such as the Disney World in Orlando, and major cities like New York and Los Angeles, which are embedded in global popular culture from Hollywood movies and television.
International leisure travellers comprised 19.5 per cent of the nearly $1 trillion US travel market in 2016, well below domestic leisure travellers which accounted for 50 per cent of the total, according to a report by IBISWorld.
But growth is expected to be faster among international travellers in the years to come, in line with rising global income, particularly in countries in Asia and South America.
“We’re experiencing a global tourism boom,” MGM’s Murren said. “Over the next 20-25 years tourism across borders is going to increase and the US should be a leader there.” — AFP