Federal Numbers Confirm International Travel Decline
New numbers from the U.S. Department of Commerce reflect a nearly 4 percent drop in international travel to the U.S. during the first half of 2017, with numbers down sharply in parts of the world targeted by President Trump’s travel ban. The numbers reflect previous estimates from the U.S. Travel Association.
The past year has been a fairly fraught one on the international travel front, in no small part because of the political climate.
Rumblings about President Donald Trump’s executive orders related to travel in recent months, including from the U.S. Travel Association, ASAE, and other groups, have expressed concern that such actions might hurt international travel into the U.S. The Trump administration has continued to push for such restrictions, which the Supreme Court has thus far allowed.
But the federal government’s own numbers, released by the U.S. Department of Commerce National Travel and Tourism Office last week, appear to confirm that the orders are leading to fewer international visitors.
The office reported a 3.9 percent total decrease in arrivals from overseas during the first six months of 2017, with only April seeing increases. Outside of North America, the office reported a 5.7 percent decrease in arrivals.
The sharpest declines were seen in the Middle East (29.8 percent) and Africa (27 percent), while Europe, Oceania, and Asia saw decreases of less than 3 percent each.
The decreases correspond with three major events that occurred during the early months of the Trump administration: The hastily implemented first iteration of the immigration ban for seven Muslim-majority countries in late January; the second iteration of the order in March, affecting people from six countries; and an in-flight laptop ban on aircraft coming from eight Muslim-majority countries, also in March.
The laptop ban, which nearly went global, was eventually shelved, though the second version of the travel ban was largely allowed to take effect after a June Supreme Court decision allowed many of its restrictions to go through.
That said, the report suggests that the immigration ban wasn’t the only factor: Entrants from Mexico dropped by nearly 10 percent during the period, while Latin America saw a 13.8 percent drop.
Neither region was directly affected by Trump’s immigration actions at the time, though Venezuela has since been added to the third, and most recent iteration, of Trump’s travel ban. The latest version of the ban, which has itself faced court challenges, was allowed to remain in effect by the Supreme Court on Monday, pending court decisions, according to The Washington Post.
“An Undeniable Wake-Up Call”
The estimates roughly reflect the U.S. Travel Association’s own findings [PDF] in the most recent edition of its Travel Trends Index, which reported a sharp decline in travel during the first half of 2017, and predicts a “tepid outlook for inbound travel” going into 2018.
In comments regarding the recent decline, U.S. Travel President and CEO Roger Dow spoke against the trend in the strongest language.
“These numbers are an undeniable wake-up call, and correcting this troubling trend needs to become a national priority,” Dow said in a statement. “The travel industry will turn over every stone looking for all available policy options to better promote the U.S. as an international destination, and we stand ready to partner with the federal government to grow travel, and American jobs and exports along with it.”
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