Is the US losing ground on tourism?
Monday, May 08, 2017
President Donald Trump's attempted travel bans and related policies have created quite a buzz worldwide — and not a positive one. Industry experts are pointing to the loss of revenue these policies are causing and how the future of the U.S. tourism industry will be affected.
However, as much as some would like to, we cannot blame it all on Trump. A recent report, the World Economic Forum's Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017 — released before any travel ban announcement — shows that the U.S. had been losing ground well before that.
While the United States still ranks sixth globally, it has dropped two slots in the international rankings of overall desirable tourist destinations. People who are worried about the billions in lost revenue should focus on all aspects of the problem.
Japan and the United Kingdom have surpassed the U.S., despite our excellent tourist infrastructure and air transportation along with exceptional natural and cultural resources like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park.
Surprisingly, it is the latter that seems to have toppled U.S. off its throne. Decreased investment in ground infrastructure, endangered species and national parks may have contributed to a drop in tourist impressions.
These along with terrorism reports, which have raised security concerns, and an unclear policy or prioritization of tourism have all combined to affect the industry negatively. It is a rather unfortunate turn of events for an industry that showed immense promise in 2016.
When seen from the perspective of the foreign traveler, there is simply too much uncertainty in the U.S. right now for them to invest their money and expect a peaceful vacation. All in all, foreign tourists could end up spending $18 billion less by 2018 than they would otherwise have.
When we look at how other countries have been quick to take advantage and relaxed their travel rules or stepped up on marketing efforts, we realize how much this could hurt the U.S. tourism and hospitality businesses. While securing the nation against crime and terrorism is imperative, there is much to learn from countries like Australia, which does the same with its smart visa policy without hampering tourism efforts.
European nations like Spain, France and Germany are still ruling as top destinations, as much due to their tourist-friendly policies as to the euro value for the dollar. Even with the latest U.S. alert against traveling to Europe, experts are predicting robust growth.
But terrorist attacks do pose a threat to travelers, and perhaps this is the reason Asian nations with their tourism-friendliness are surging ahead faster than others in 2017 bookings. Australia, Italy, Canada and Switzerland closed out the top 10, and their numbers are growing every day, too.
According to ForwardKeys, while there has been naturally a drastic fall in bookings to the U.S. from the Middle East, there has also been an overall 17 percent decrease in online searches for U.S. destinations in recent months.
In just one month after the ban, the U.S. tourism industry witnessed a loss of $185 million. With 4.3 million fewer tourists predicted to visit the U.S. this year, this loss could reach $7.4 billion.
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