Could Trump Tank Tourism?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because tourism is yuuuge business … for now.
By Nick Fouriezos
You’ve heard the refrain by now: If Donald Trump is elected president, everybody and your neighbor is packing up and heading to Canada in search of a funny accent. The sentiment is so pervasive that it went viral, with one Canuck radio host advertising that his island would take Trump dissidents with open arms.
But every election brings promises of emigration, only for most to stay. What Americans should worry about instead? Whether Canadians, and the rest of the world, will keep coming to the U.S. of A. should Trump win.
The Donald — famous for his golf resorts in exotic locales — could actually hurt the U.S. tourism industry.
That’s the assertion of a general population survey by TransferWise, a company that helps travelers transfer their money overseas. Half of millennials said they worried tourism would suffer under a Trump presidency — and a third of elderly citizens were also concerned. Respondents weren’t asked why they feared for the economic stability of hoteliers and brochure companies (cogs in a tourism industry that contributed $1.4 trillion to the American economy in 2014). But industry pros have already seen the effects. Earlier this year, David Downing, Florida’s Pinellas County tourism chief, attended a conference in Germany. Although his office didn’t return requests for comment, he previously told local reporters that foreign tour operators weren’t talking about Zika, or the refugee crisis — but about whether Trump’s rhetoric might put a damper on travel.
That unease is easy for Joe Cross, TransferWise’s U.S. general manager, to understand, considering he’s a Brit living in Brooklyn. Cross professes a love for the city’s diversity, but says he personally would consider moving back across the pond under President Trump, and notes that more than half of his clients are expats trying to make their way amid a nativist election season. It’s all part of a strange dichotomy, Cross says, of a world becoming more globally minded yet filled with anti-immigrant sentiment, as evidenced by the rise of Trump and the passage of Brexit.
But even while respondents to TransferWise’s survey said they feared the Trump effect, that same group sung a different tune when asked who would more likely increase tourism, picking Trump (23 percent) over Hillary Clinton (12 percent). It seems contradictory — a TransferWise spokeswoman said it likely meant Trump supporters were more bullish on their candidate, while Clinton backers had a tepid reaction, often responding that tourism would remain the same under the former secretary of state. Outside of levying taxes or passing border-closing laws, presidents don’t have a proven link to the tourism industry — seemingly no studies tackle the topic. Still, the results are “a barometer,” Cross argues, “of how people think the country will be seen by the rest of the world.”