Trump Presidency

U.S. Travel Industry Fears a 'Lost Decade' Under Trump - Portland Press Herald

Excerpt from Portland Press Herald

Trump's rhetoric and unpopularity abroad are likely to reduce international arrivals by 4.3 million this year, according to a market strategy firm.

Like many Washington lobby groups, the U.S. Travel Association was quick to congratulate the new president on his victory last November.

"We are encouraged that Mr. Trump's extensive business and hospitality background ... will make him a ready and receptive ear," the trade organization said. Upon the Republican's inauguration, the USTA's chief executive, Roger Dow, pledged the industry as a "capable, willing partner." 

But almost immediately, things started to go sideways. A steady drumbeat of news and policy proclamations seemed likely to damage America's $250 billion travel industry and its roughly 15 million U.S. employees.

Initial contacts between Trump and leaders of Australia, Germany, Mexico, and China didn't go well, resulting in negative publicity in countries that send lots of travelers to America. Then came the majority Muslim nation travel bans, with protests and news coverage that made for a global public relations disaster. The first ban, since suspended by the courts, resulted in the detention of foreign travelers. The second, changed from the first, was frozen before it could take effect. Trump is appealing.

Meanwhile, the White House has instituted an airline cabin restriction on electronic devices for people flying from airports in eight nations. And last week, a State Department policy was revealed that mandates extra vetting of visa applicants in nations where U.S.-bound travelers must apply for one. This includes inspection of social media accounts for some and is likely to make it more difficult for millions of people to travel to America.

The State Department took action following a March 6 order from the White House to enhance visa screening, a spokeswoman said, declining further comment. "We will keep the public informed about changes affecting travelers to the U.S. as appropriate," the department said in a March 26 email.

The order doesn't apply to 38 countries in the U.S. visa-waiver program , but others are going to have to wait. The new policy covers nations with millions of business travelers and international tourists, including Brazil, Mexico, China, Argentina, Colombia, and South Africa. About 15 million annual travelers will be affected, the USTA estimated.

So, for Dow's organization and the industry it represents, what looked like the beginning of a beautiful friendship became in just two months something bordering on adversarial. Even America's closest ally and next door neighbor is wavering on sending its kids across the border for a field trip. 

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