One of the hot current topics in the industry is whether or not President Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric and Trump administration attempts to ban some foreign travelers from entering the country have had an impact on international tourism to the United States.
Although it may be too early to have a definitive answer, Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck says data collected by his company indicates foreign travelers are increasingly choosing to spend their travel budgets in countries other than the United States. Foursquare can detect when smartphones of their 50 million users in 190 countries—if they are opted-in to location sharing—walk in or out of 93 million public places around the world.
Overall, he notes, international tourism to the United States is down by double digits. Although business trip activity is up so far this year by about 3 percent (as a share of international traveler global activity), the rest of the world is seeing year-over-year increases of about 10 percent.
“Relative to business travel gains globally, business travel to the U.S. is suffering,” Glueck says. “From our data, residents of the Middle East and Central/South America are avoiding the U.S. more than residents of Asia, Europe and elsewhere. It goes without saying that some of the current administration’s most controversial policies have been focused on countries within the Middle East and Latin America, and that we’re seeing a greater impact in travel from these nations.”
Separately, Kayak.com has reported international air searches to the U.S. are down 12 percent, and Expedia’s CEO has warned of impact from the administration’s policies and tone, as well as from the rise and volatility of the dollar versus other currencies.
“To be clear,” Glueck says, “we do not claim our analysis can tease apart the impact of a new tone or policies versus other factors: The dollar has been up slightly (about 3 percent year-over-year versus the euro during the past two quarters), making travel to the U.S. more expensive at times. The value of the euro is down, making European travel marginally more attractive. There may be other factors, as well.”
Nonetheless, he says that “the share of visits for leisure categories in other countries is up year-over-year by about 6 percent, by definition at the expense of the U.S., since we are talking about market share.” California, in particular Los Angeles and San Diego, has been most impacted. Both cities saw gains in foreign visitors in fall 2016 but sharp drops this year.
The American hospitality sector is especially vulnerable to declines in overseas guests. International visitors purchased about 15 percent of all hotel nights in the fourth quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017.
Others have begun to forecast what a business travel and tourism slowdown could mean. One analysis by the firm Tourism Economics reported that Trump’s travel ban could cost the U.S. economy more than $18 billion and about 107,000 jobs.
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