Tourism from other countries is a one of America’s largest exports, but business was down by 3 million annual visits last year. Travel industry executives call it the “Trump slump.”
Foreign tourism is America’s $236 billion export, supporting 2.5 million U.S. jobs. Foreigners spend $100 billion more each year visiting the U.S. than they spend importing our crops, meats, and dairy. They spend nearly five times more visiting the U.S. than they spend buying our movies, software, video games, music, and other IP.
However, 80 percent of foreign travel to the U.S. is for pleasure, which means foreigners can switch easily. Surveys show foreigners feel less safe and welcome in the U.S., thanks to President Trump’s Muslim travel ban, anti-immigrant policies, and rhetoric about Mexican rapists and “shithole countries.” Last year, those 3 million fewer foreign visits cost us nearly $5 billion in business and about 40,000 jobs. To put this in perspective, imagine 7,212 more 747s landing at our airports or 750 more cruise ships docking at our ports.
Of 12 major international tourist destinations, 10 saw more visitors last year (up 13.5%, on average). Only the U.S. and Turkey saw fewer. Competitors, including Canada and Australia (both up more than 20 percent), are benefitting at our expense.
Skeptical? Ask the travel CEOs funding a global ad campaign to win foreign tourists back. Or ask Trump’s Commerce Department, which commissioned one of the consumer surveys that demonstrates how Trump’s hurt us with foreign tourists.
Last year, the Trump Administration defunded those surveys. Last month, it suspended publication of the tourist travel data while it investigates for anomalies in the data. It’s hard to see how creating a $236 billion gap in our economic reports will help our hotels, airports, and airlines prepare for next quarter.
When a President has argued that “Islam hates us,” it’s up to his Commerce Secretary to remind him that one in four of global customers is Muslim. When he calls Mexicans rapists, he needs to know that a lot of wealthy Mexicans, Brits, and Brazilians will be switching their ski vacations from Vail to Vancouver. If Trump ever visited a hotel he didn’t own, he might discover all of this.
American businesses are paying a heavy price for Trump’s bigotry. We cannot let him get in the way of an honest accounting.
Read more in our Issue Brief, available here (link opens PDF).