Flights and Points | Foreign business and tourism arrivals to the USA down substantially in Q1 2017
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Foreign business and tourism arrivals to the USA down substantially in Q1 2017

Foreign business and tourism arrivals to the USA down substantially in Q1 2017

The current administration in Washington has been surrounded by controversy since Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

Since then, it has been unclear what impact his policies would have on travel to America. This past week, data from the National Travel and Tourism Office detailing business and tourism arrivals to the USA in Q1 2017 was made public.

Business and tourism arrivals to the USA down almost across the board

Business and tourism arrivals to the USA have dropped sharply over last year

The results are shocking: compared with Q1 2016, arrivals from Europe fell by more than 10%. One of the busiest routes for foreign arrivals to America – the United Kingdom – logged a drop of 15.5%.

Trump’s repeated attempts at instituting a travel ban targeting mostly Muslim majority countries appears to have triggered even deeper declines in visitation from Africa and the Middle East – arrivals from those places were down 22% and 34% respectively over the same period last year.

Anti-Latino rhetoric may have played a role in a drop in business and tourism arrivals to the USA from Latin American countries.

Arrivals from Mexico fell 7%, while visitation from other countries in Central and South America sunk more than 13%.

Slight declines in Asian arrivals, more visitors from South Korea, Canada

Declines in business and tourism arrivals to the USA from many Asian countries, while muted, were also recorded.

Arrivals from India and Taiwan fell around 3%, Japan sent 2% fewer visitors compared to last year, and tourist and business travel from China fell a modest 0.5%.

Exceptions to the above declines include Canada, whose travel across the border increased 5% over Q1 2016, and South Korea, which fuelled a 15.5% increase in business and tourist arrivals over last year.

Overall, business and tourism arrivals to the USA from foreign countries fell 4.2% in Q1 2017 when compared with the first quarter of 2016.

Is politics to blame, or have we jumped the gun?

Should the drop in business and tourism arrivals to the USA be laid at the feet of Trump and his administration?

While it is not clear whether the politics of the current White House is primarily responsible for the declines in travel mentioned above, there are no other indicators, economic or otherwise, that would explain such a precipitous drop in such a short period of time.

According to Tourism Economics, a business consultancy which provides analytical services to businesses in the travel sector, the present drop-off in business and tourism arrivals to the USA has cost its economy almost $3 billion dollars in the first quarter of 2017 alone.

The effects of such a decline, if sustained over subsequent quarters, could do serious damage to tourism businesses in America and create negative spin-off effects in other sectors.

When reached for comment, Tourism Economics president Adam Sacks said it wasn’t “… a reach to say the rhetoric and policies of this administration are affecting sentiment around the world, creating antipathy toward the US and affecting travel behaviour.”

While this data set is alarming news for tourism operators in America, results from subsequent quarters should confirm whether the results from Q1 2017 are a one-time aberration – or an indicator of darker days to come.

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