These are serious numbers. There has been a 1.4% fall in international inbound in to the USA, while global inbound numbers have grown steadily, clocking 4.6%. Tourism has taken a beating since the beginning of 2017 – which effectively indicates that stricter visa regulations and changed perception of the nation in the international markets under the Trump administration has taken a toll on footfalls. Announcements of first two travel bans in January and March by the Trump administration made a big dent in tourism numbers, leading to a steep drop, ForwardKeys, a European travel-prediction firm has said.
The USA is major international tourist destination and receives millions of tourists. In 2016 alone, USA received 35 million tourists from Mexico and close to equal numbers from its Northern neighbour, Canada. Tourism is a key generator of employment and generates revenue accounting to 2.7% of the nation’s GDP. A fall of 1.4% in numbers is a significant drop and has made the domestic industry anxious, forcing them to come up with innovative outreach campaigns to negate the bad publicity. India, too, is a key source market for the United States and tighter visa regulations are likely to deter the outbound. In 2016, 1.1 million Indian outbound visited the USA. It would be interesting to compare numbers and it is very highly likely that those numbers will not be breached in 2017.
There are several destinations, competing to attract discerning travellers and therefore, tourism stakeholders in the USA will do well to collectively tackle this downward slide. The bigger question that seeks consideration is that has the PR machinery failed to dispel the negativity that has come about with the present dispensation? Perhaps, it is after many years, certainly after 9/11, that the PR machinery promoting the USA is facing a perception challenge of this proportion. How they manage to negate it will decide whether tourism becomes a victim of governmental policies or manages to grow, once again contributing significantly to the national coffers.