The Slatest

Report: Tourism to the U.S. Down 4 Percent Since Trump Took Office

The Statue of Liberty on Jan. 22 in New York.
Timothy A. ClaryI/Getty Images

Travel to the U.S. has been declining since Donald Trump took office, leading to a cost of $4.6 billion in spending and 40,000 jobs, according to NBC News.

A report by the National Travel and Tourism Office found that last year saw 4 percent less travel into the U.S., translating into 3.3 percent less spending, NBC reported. As a result, Spain has overtaken the U.S. as the second-most visited country in the world after France.

This “Trump Slump” in part stems from the president’s anti-immigration language. More intense security likely also played a role.

One likely key factor in this decline is the year’s chaotic travel bans. As Daniel Gross wrote in Slate in February, a month into Trump’s presidency:

Perhaps not many of the refugees and nationals of seven majority-Muslim countries affected by Trump’s now-stayed travel ban will be staying at Disney or a Marriott. But airlines have already absorbed significant costs from flight delays and from staff time occupied in pulling people off planes and reissuing tickets. And if you start blocking Canadian citizens who happen to have Moroccan parents from entering the country, word starts to get around.

[T]he travel app found that the number of weekly searches for flights to the U.S. fell from 61.5 million just before Trump’s inauguration “to 56 million during Trump’s inauguration week, before falling to 50.9 million after the travel ban was ordered.” That’s a decline of 17.7 percent.

The United States has a “huge competitive advantage” in attracting tourists, Gross wrote in Slate later the same month:

English is something like a universal global language. Despite the complaints about infrastructure, it is relatively easy to get around America, and there are options for people of all budgets. Airlines like Norwegian Air are expanding international service to the U.S. This is an industry on which we should double down—it supports millions of service jobs, which are distributed around the country.

It matters if people have the wherewithal to afford tourism. But it also matters if the country has a willingness and ability to let customers come in, process their exit and entry quickly, and generally let it be known that their patronage is welcome.

At least one city in the U.S. has attempted to adjust to this Trump Slump by crafting diversity-touting tourism ads with decidedly anti-Trump undertones. Now, it seems, the entire country is going to have to take up that same message. As the Los Angeles Times reported in January, the U.S. Travel Association, a trade group for the industry, is planning a coalition called “Visit Us” that aims to send a welcoming message to international visitors and “promote more balanced rhetoric.”

Correction, Jan. 29, 2018: This post originally said a weaker dollar may have hurt tourism. A stronger dollar would be more likely to hurt tourism.