US lost £2bn in tourism in first months of 2017

Decline corresponds with survey revealing sharp drop in global respect for US

A TSA agent
(Image credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Tourist visits to the US dropped by 4.2% in the early months of 2017, raising fears of a “Trump slump” following the November 2016 presidential elections.

Data collected by the US Department of Commerce showed that 697,791 fewer tourist visits in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the same period last year, the New York Times reports. The decline is estimated to have cost the travel industry around $2.7 billion (£1.99bn) in lost custom.

The news follows months of “warnings from the travel industry about the negative impact of increased travel restrictions from the Trump administration”, the BBC reports.

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Tourists from Africa and the Middle East were the most likely to give the US a miss, says the Times, further suggesting the possibility of a “a ripple effect from President Trump’s proposed travel ban on visitors from six majority-Muslim countries”.

In Europe, the steepest drops in travel to the US occurred in Switzerland, Belgium and the UK. The number of Britons travelling to the States fell 15.5% from last year.

“Comparatively, international tourism saw a 6.4% increase during the beginning of 2013, following the reelection of President Barack Obama,” The Hill reports.

Prior to 2016, international visits to the US have risen every year since 2009, peaking at 77.5 million in 2015, Travel Weekly reports.

The decline in international tourism comes months after a survey by global polling company Pew found a significant drop in US prestige around the world since Trump came to power.

Across 37 countries polled, only 22% of respondents said they confidence in Trump to do the right thing on the world stage, a 52-point difference from his predecessor

Their overall opinion of the US had also fallen steeply since the end of the Obama administration. Less than half of those surveyed said they had a favourable view of the US, compared to 64% at the end of President Obama’s second term.

However, political turmoil may not be the only factor behind the disappointing figures. Easter, a traditionally busy time for international travel, fell in April this year compared to March in 2016, meaning Easter travel statistics would not be included in first quarter data this year.

The strength of the dollar may also be driving tourists away from the US in favour of a destination where their money will stretch further.

In June, Chris Thompson, CEO of a company which markets the US abroad, told CBS that politics had “little or nothing to do” with destination choices compared to the currency exchange rate.

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