Never in the history of the world has tourism been anywhere like what it is today. With each new year, a brave new number of total traveller arrivals is released, and times are absolutely booming. A record 1.32 billion tourist arrivals were recorded in 2018 alone, representing a 7% increase in world tourism.

But tourism isn’t just about people, it’s about economics too. Tourism is worth more than 1.3 trillion – not billion – dollars annually to the world at large, with places like Europe and the Americas taking a lions share with $590, and $320 billion respectively.

It’s for all these reasons that alarm bells are beginning to sound amongst US tourism officials.

LA flight deal.According to the most recent data for March, the United States of America experienced a 5.4% tourism drop for the month of March, despite record gains for every other nation in the tourism top ten. It’s also no longer the second most visited destination in the world, a title now owned by Spain, second only to France.

Is it them, or just you?

Whatever your political affiliation, it’s no secret that the Trump administration has been polarising, especially on the world stage. From travel bans largely aimed at Muslim majority countries to new restrictions on the workforce, it appears that the effects of these policies are now being felt, at least according to the actual numbers.

Crucial tourism jobs, which typically have been filled by foreign visitors, are currently being left unfilled in the USA due to increased restrictions on work visas and it’s now borderline impossible to get a seasonal work visa. People are taking their discretionary travel elsewhere. When people feel unsafe, or unwanted – they visit other countries.

According to Oxford Economics

“Soft global economic activity, persistent trade tensions and uncertainty surrounding the Trump administration remain major risks to international traveller sentiment,”

With secondary cities such as Charleston, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Portland and Nashville becoming the new “must see” travel darlings, it’s not as if America is at a loss for new year round attractions to draw travellers in. That list doesn’t even touch upon New York, California, Las Vegas, Florida or any of the other perennial favourites.

For now, all we know is that US tourism demand is in a downward trend, and as more travellers take to the skies every year, it’s pretty much the only one.

HT: Telegraph

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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38 Comments

  1. Immigration laws in the USA have not changed. No legislation has been proposed or discussed in Congress. Enforcement of existing laws has been stepped up in some cases but those laws have been on the books for decades.. The only thing different is the US mainstream media hates America more than ever.

    1. What would US Mainstream Media have to do with overseas tourism or traveling in General? A person from Japan isn’t going to be seeing MSNBC or CNN. Your argument makes no sense at all.

      The only thing I could see the media hurting from a travel standpoint is the hate they spread on Fox News. A fox news watcher from Arizona, Idaho, etc will probably never visit California, or New York in there lifetime now because of the hate that is spread how its nothing but crime ridden sanctuary city full of illegals

      1. John – I am a conservative from Montana and read Fox News more than any other. I regularly visit California, New York, Massachusetts, Oregon, Canada, China, etc. My travel pattern has absolutely nothing to do with which way the political wind blows in my destination. There’s too many good things to see and experience in each location to discriminate based on a political bent that is different than mine.

        Oh, and when travelling overseas, CNN is by far the most prevalent American news I have found, so I do believe US Mainstream Media does people’s thinking. (I realize that some will choose to travel to a particular location or not based on their political climate)

      2. John,

        It very difficult to understand what you’re saying: “The only thing I could see the media hurting from a travel standpoint is the hate they spread on Fox News.” So is the media hurting the hate that it spreads on Fox News? Are California and New York now cities? Your sentence construction is quite impressive, almost as impressive as your usage (twice!) of the word ‘hate’ to describe perspectives that differ from your own. I hate, just hate, lima beans and kale.

        I recently read that the average IQ of developed nations has recently dropped. Would your home country’s average IQ drop or increase if you left?

    2. Rhetoric against groups, words against nations, people, religions have consequences. If I had a nickel for every person abroad who told me they won’t be making their annual US trip until the current sitting president leaves, I could probably help the slumping US travel industry.

    3. Of all the available talking points you managed to pick one of the lamest, even though the competition for that distinction is intense.

      Just because any person or institution says something you don’t like about a person it hardly means that they hate an entire group. Trump is just one of more than 315 million people in this country, doing a very short-term job. If I happen to be offended by his attitudes toward women or his apparent admiration for undesirable leaders, how does that translate into hating America? I have an ex that I’ve said many unflattering things about (I’m sure she can say the same). Does that mean I hate humans? Or women? Or just women with a certain hair color? Or does it mean I just don’t like her?

      That grade school level of “logic” is something you should really try to advance beyond. It’s something most mature adults outgrow about the same time they learn how juvenile it is to resort to name-calling as a manipulative tactic.

  2. Gilbert,

    Tourism started a downward slide during the Obama administration in 2015. It is because of a stronger dollar , weakening international economies and tensions between US and China keeping some Chinese tourists away.

    https://www.ustravel.org/press/travel-trends-index-int%E2%80%99l-inbound-travel-tumbles-while-domestic-leisure-travel-remains-strong

    There are 49 to 51 Muslim countries and 7 have restrictions on them for security reasons. It is not a total ban on all Muslim countries. The effect on US tourism from this ban is negligible.

    Perhaps you may want to consider your sources of information next time. You may also want to avoid coloring your observations with a liberal political bias.

    1. Any link to US Travel Association is a joke. They are the lobbying group of all lobbying groups, not a government body and are the schoolyard bullies of the travel world.

      Perhaps you may want to consider less partisan shill organizations in your research.

      They’re the same ones that keep it so great airlines get less access to the USA, while the race to the bottom continues.

    2. Craig S.

      “tensions between US and China keeping some Chinese tourists away” – Isn’t that the same thing as Trump polarizing on the world stage?

      Chinese Tourists are taking over Europe in terms of travel, if the US had a small piece of that we would have no slump in travel

  3. For many, it’s simply the exchange rate. For example, look how expensive the U.S. is for a visitor from Australia, New Zealand or even Canada as compared to 3-5 years ago.

  4. Gilbert, you obviously hang out with only those who share your political views. And as far as the USTA’s data, facts are facts. You just can’t denigrate the source because you don’t like the truth. The problem is all economic. It’s more expensive to travel here so some tourists are going elsewhere. For example, the Euro vs. the USD is sliding for the past year:

    https://www.exchangerates.org.uk/EUR-USD-exchange-rate-history.html

    1. Craig, I hang out with anyone who is open minded, welcoming and logical. Preferably with a sense of humour. Are we sure that USTA’s facts aren’t in fact, alternative facts?

    1. Gilbert here’s some advice: divorce yourself from politics when you blog or risk losing 50% of your readers.

      1. Where in the blog post is there politics? Is there anyone on earth who wouldn’t consider Trump a polarizing figure, in either a positive or negative way?

  5. In response to “rjb”:
    Yep. In addition, the non-US media complex just fans the flames of resentment and discord even further. The dopes have been duped, and will continue to believe lies as anything other than those lies would shatter their fragile paradigm. It’s easier to believe in falsehoods than to come to terms with the reality of having been deceived.

    The blog post, whether it quotes an absurd statement from Oxford Economics (as if leisure travelers care heavily about a nation’s internal politics or trade negotiations) or oft repeated misnomers and falsehoods (re: the colloquial ‘Muslim Travel Ban’), is more of a swipe at Trump/US than a critical analysis of a factors precipitating a US tourism drop. For instance, could a drop in the relative value of the EUR to USD from 1EUR:1.25USD (2 Feb 2018) to 1EUR:1.12 (5 Apr 2019), a 10.4% decrease, have a significant impact? Which populations have the means to travel trans-oceanic?

    Gilbert,
    The Trump Administration has been polarized. This is a political tactic to target, isolate, and stigmatized. It is intended to create pariah-hood and to ensure that the general U.S. public or potential political allies do not express open public support for the president thereby diminishing critical discourse and positive associations. It is to instill fear… fear of harassment, social disenfranchisement, and unjust persecution.

    Your repetition of the misnomer and oft repeated lie that President Trump’s Executive Order is somehow a slight on Muslims as false. Executive Order 13769 suspended the entry of certain aliens from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. These specific countries were previously identified as presenting heightened concerns about terrorism and travel to the United States. These countries neither contain adequate infrastructure to verify the backgrounds, aliases, associations, etc. for certain foreign nationals that attempt to travel to the U.S. nor has the internal “governance” shown adequate abilities to ensure that hostile actors are prevented from travelling. The fact that these nations are predominately Muslim is secondary to the chief concerns. Other more populace nation states including Suadia Arabia, Indonesia, UAE, and Morocco are not included. One can be intentionally obtuse to the realities of the world or one can have a conversation about the measurable effects of Islam on a nation’s population and whether its impact is positive or negative. Issues that are too complex for a blog post or reply.

    I’m sorry for the screed, I really do enjoy your blog. Keep up the good (99%) work. Cheers!

    1. Matty, can’t do anything but respect your passion and opinion here. Thanks for being a part of the discussion and shedding valuable light.

  6. Gilbert,

    You are not open-minded by virtue of your attacks on Gilbert and the baseless attacks on the USTA.

    Tellingly, you explicitly leave out an important fact mentioned by the USTA which also appears in the article you cite:

    “But other factors appear to be underpinning the disappointing numbers, including the strength of the dollar which has made US holidays more expensive.”

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/us-counts-cost-of-biggest-slump-in-tourism-for-four-years/

    Of course, I am sure that some of the rhetoric has put off/frightened some individuals, but the US economy is the strongest in the world today, and the strength of the $$ has followed.

    Today, the UK Pound is at a near historic low with respect to other currencies because of Brexit issues and the Chinese Yuan may be devalued because of the trade war — both of which are the result of policies of this President and his administration — you have to take the good with the negative.

    However, your tunnel vision on simply the cited rhetoric taken with your dismissal of Gilbert’s citation and analysis demonstrates all we need to know — your article is simply an excuse for a polemic against the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    I’ll bet you are also a remainer who wants a 2nd Referendum — you won’t get either, and you will be bitter about the entire shebang, as you are with the outcome of our election.

    So sad……………………………

  7. The current president has nothing to do with whether or not i will visit the USA again soon nor does the strong dollar – exchange rates do influence people to a point but if you really want to go somewhere you will! Unless youre spending thousands or travelling to make a big purchase it isn’t going to make a big difference. If I do, I normally go to HK due to no sales tax! And the saving pays for the cheap flights (upgrade with points) and hotel most times = free holiday.

    For me it’s more a case of long queues at immigration, over the top immigration, poor airports, city taxes on hotels and lack of airline choice. The US airlines in general are MILES behind the Asian, Middle Eastern and European. Like GSTP said it is an issue when deciding where to go!

    When I can go to Asia I don’t need a visa and can fly through airports rather than spending two hours in a queue after a 8hr flight! Used to like long weekends in NYC but nowadays normally head east than west for these, unless checking out a new US city.

    It’s personal preference at the end of the day and other countries are spending a lot more time and money attracting tourists than the USA.

    Flight prices often decide where people travel and the best deals recently have been to Asia – hats off to GSTP for the Qatar flights we got!!

  8. The article should note that the US Dollar is strong compared to most currencies worldwide. Travel within the United States has become more expensive for the rest of the world. That has to be a stronger influence here than politics. I would assume, all other factors being equal, that currency strengths and weaknesses influence foreign visitors numbers to any country over time.

    1. And yet the number of tourists traveling to Europe, where their domestic currency is worth even less, continues to rise. There’s an obvious flaw in your argument.

  9. Definitely immigration for me. I just don’t need a two hour wait and an unfriendly and often downright rude immigration officer after a 7-11 hour flight. So many other places in the world are delighted to see you and don’t treat you like an invading force and yes I’m white british.

  10. Surely this is the result of the ‘advanced’ US immigration, the TSA nonsense and the well designed airports.
    I never look forward to arriving in any US airport as lines are long, traffic flow is not well organized and connecting within a reasonable time frame is highly unlikely.
    Just fix up your airports, security and immigration processes as those are currently quite backward compared to virtually any other country.

  11. I can only speak for myself – And I am exactly the type of person Gilbert is referring to.

    I regularly used to visit America as it is a beautiful country and the people are lovely but I now think twice. I am negatively influenced by the fact that Trump is the president.

    There are so many places I want to see that I am spoilt for choice and I am now actively making a choice to visit a non USA destination largely because Trump disgusts me that much. This choice is similar to my choice not to visit a country that I feel treats women poorly or a country that is run by a dictator or somewhere I feel unsafe.

    I am not influence by the exchange rate as many times I book in advance so will not know what the exchange rate will be by time I get around to travelling.

    I do agree that immigration is awful with many rude and unfriendly security personnel and the airport shopping is rubbish but that has not stopped me visiting before.

    Maybe I am the only person that is unlikely to visit the US until Trump is gone but then again perhaps there are others like me.

    I am a white female aged 38, born in Australia, living in the UK.

  12. In my opinion, the USD grew significantly stronger against the EURO leading to less travel when the money doesn’t go as far. Case in point, 3 years ago (pre-Brexit) the Euro:USD was 1:1.22 the GBP:USD was 1:1.37. Current state 1:10-ish and 1:1.29-ish. USD now goes further. Fewer European tourists took holiday here in the States, many more Americans took their money abroad. Some of that may also be due to sites such as this showing how to go/do more for a lot less :?P

    The political climate, as an underlying factor, also has much more to do than one might think. While traveling to Spain & France these past 4 years, US elections & Trump were hot button issues for those that we met whilst out and about.

    As Americans, a little turmoil abroad fails to affect us in a negative manner, such issues: Brexit, Jiles Jauntes, Catalan Separatistas, etc…

    Just my experiential 2cents

  13. Where did all these Pro trumpers come from? I’ve got to say that I’m pretty disappointed in what so many Americans have chosen to support and tolerate. Gun and violent crime are up in the states, it’s no wonder why so many of my friends, and so many other people that I meet in other countries on my travels, would rather visit elsewhere. America certainly has many wonderful places to see, but so does the rest of the world, and the strong US dollar doesn’t help, either. Given what the American president and or his administration has said about Muslims, Latin Americans, people from poor countries, Etc, I’d think twice about visiting the states right now, too. Too bad some of the commenters here are in denial about what many other people in the world have already noticed.

  14. It’s a given that many are avoiding the US because of the current administration. What makes thing even worse is the current administration is purposely making things miserable for foreign tourists. I just came through customs/immigration in New York. The citizens section had ample windows open and I breezed through. The section for foreigners was poorly staffed and the line was excruciatingly long. I estimate it would take about two hours to get through. I could see their bewilderment as they looked at the fast moving, almost non-existent line on the US citizen side. I travel a lot so I expect my processing to take longer if I’m a foreigner. On the other hand, I’ve never seen the difference so ridiculously huge as in the US (it’s similar at other ports of entry). No doubt their anger spreads quickly through word of mouth.

  15. You are right as a Mexican living in London, I will avoid to travel US while Trump runs administration… been there last year and when you pass through immigration, officers treat you as if you were a drug dealer or terrorist… there are plenty of more friendly places to visit worldwide indeed

  16. Here’s another family skipping their annual visit to the US for all the reasons mentioned above, in many ways the US has become as joyful as visiting the old Soviet Union:
    – Soviet-style lines everywhere, not only at immigration but also other unexpected places like Las Vegas hotel checkin, the TSA, and of course Disneyland
    – Soviet-style crumbling transport-infrastructure
    – Soviet style comfort on local airlines, complete with Soviet-style surcharges like resort fees
    – Soviet style mandatory bribes to get anything done (out-of-control tipping)
    – escalating gun crime
    – widening wealth-gap has created even more beggars and thieves
    – now difficult to converse with locals, it’s like “dont mention the war” except in this case it’s “don’t mention Trump” in case you have encountered a supporter
    – and don’t even think about getting sick, the ambulance will want your creditcard

  17. For me, there could be three main reasons for not visiting the US as often as before:
    1) US image has gone down in the world (two main exceptions, Russia and Israel). Maybe not all based on fair reporting, but in the EU there is no doubt that ‘we’ on average don’t look at the US as favorable as a couple of years ago.
    2) Maybe the exchange rate, but since beginning of 2015 it has been between 1,10 and 1,20 to the euro for most of the time.
    3) The redicolous lines and sometimes also treatment at US immigration. When having to wait in line more than four hours (happened to me three times last year), it starts to have an effect on my travel habits. Both in stopovers (to South America via Spain instead of the US, to Hawaii (yeah I know, also US) via Japan instead of the US), but also in destinations to travel to (been to Montreal and plan to go to Toronto and Calgary later this year, while otherwise at least one of those trips would have been to San Francisco or Boston; cities I both love).

  18. I will no longer spend any of my tourism dollars in the USA. Not necessarily due to the Trump presidency, which certainly doesn’t help. More due to how Canadians are treated at points of entry. Example; I was going through customs and immigration at a Canadian airport. When I smiled and told the officer to have a nice day. He accused me of laughing at him and threatened to turn me back and not allow me entry. I was flabbergasted and shocked. I carried on with my trip to NY NY but will NEVER return again.
    I will not ever transit through the US to another destination, it’s just too much hassle.
    Also I have been told that if they ask you about marijuana use past or present and you admit to EVER taking a puff you can be refused entry and even banned or flagged in the system.
    About me: so you all don’t assume I’m some kind of loser that has issues. I’m a law abiding retired little old lady ( well 63) I travel extensively around the world and the USA is the most disrespectful of travellers at the border compared to other countries. Yes they have a job to do. They can do the job in a polite and respectful manner.
    Hopefully things may improve and I can once again visit our neighbour to the south.
    Things are just getting too weird and there are so many other options for travel.

  19. I will no longer spend any of my tourism dollars in the USA. Not necessarily due to the Trump presidency, which certainly doesn’t help. More due to how Canadians are treated at points of entry. Example; I was going through customs and immigration at a Canadian airport. When I smiled and told the officer to have a nice day. He accused me of laughing at him and threatened to turn me back and not allow me entry. I was flabbergasted and shocked. I carried on with my trip to NY NY but will NEVER return again.
    I will not ever transit through the US to another destination, it’s just too much hassle.
    Also I have been told that if they ask you about marijuana use past or present and you admit to EVER taking a puff you can be refused entry and even banned or flagged in the system.
    About me: so you all don’t assume I’m some kind of loser that has issues. I’m a law abiding retired little old lady ( well 63) I travel extensively around the world and the USA is the most disrespectful of travellers at the border compared to other countries. Yes they have a job to do. They can do the job in a polite and respectful manner.
    Hopefully things may improve and I can once again visit our neighbour to the south.
    Things are just getting too weird and there are so many other options for travel.
    Btw it’s NOT the exchange rate. Our Canadian dollar is not worth much in EU or UK either and I do go there regularly.

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