Can the U.S. ‘Trump Slump’ bump lo­cal tourism?

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - EDITORIAL - Russell Wanger­sky Russell Wanger­sky is TC Me­dia’s At­lantic re­gional colum­nist. He can be reached at russell.wanger­sky@tc.tc — Twit­ter: @ Wanger­sky.

It would be po­lite to say pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments don’t turn of­ten on a dime. It would prob­a­bly be more ac­cu­rate to say that while they all say they value in­no­va­tion, they’re loathe to jump into any­thing that some­one else isn’t al­ready do­ing.

But there’s an op­por­tu­nity loom­ing.

And we should seize it. Dur­ing the U.S. elec­tion, Cape Bre­ton man­aged to gen­er­ate a healthy dash of no­to­ri­ety, when it told Amer­i­cans un­com­fort­able with a pres­i­den­tial win by Don­ald Trump that they were wel­come on the is­land. They par­layed that into an ex­pected “Trump bump” in tourism in 2016, and an an­tic­i­pated hike this year. It’s not all Amer­i­can tourists; it’s fair to say it’s also peo­ple look­ing to avoid the United States in their va­ca­tion plans.

But, cou­ple the bump with a slump, and there could be op­por­tu­ni­ties all over East­ern Canada.

The “Trump Slump” is the name the travel in­dus­try has given to the pre­cip­i­tous fall in in­ter­est in travel to the United States fol­low­ing Pres­i­dent Trump’s sign­ing of an ex­ec­u­tive or­der, among other things, ban­ning trav­ellers from seven Mus­lim coun­tries.

The travel press was the first to sound the alarm, with Travel Weekly point­ing out a 6.8 per cent de­cline in for­eign tourism into the U.S. since the first ex­ec­u­tive or­der was signed. The num­ber of peo­ple search­ing flights into the U.S. from other in­ter­na­tional lo­ca­tions dropped by 17 per cent, ac­cord­ing to From­mers.com.

Global Busi­ness Travel As­so­ciates pointed out a US$185mil­lion de­cline in busi­ness travel into the U.S. in just the first week af­ter the ex­ec­u­tive or­der was signed.

In Mas­sachusetts, de­light­fully close to the At­lantic re­gion, tourism op­er­a­tors are rat­tled by the fact that new Euro­pean polling shows that 46 per cent of Ger­mans who pre­vi­ously had wanted to visit the U.S. had changed their minds since Trump’s elec­tion.

Some are warn­ing that the losses to the U.S. travel in­dus­try and that coun­try’s econ­omy could top US$3 bil­lion this year alone.

And that’s even though the ex­ec­u­tive or­der is cur­rently in court limbo, and a newly promised ex­ec­u­tive or­der — de­signed to do the ex­act same thing with­out ril­ing the courts — hasn’t been signed yet.

Ev­ery day, there’s more news of travel dif­fi­cul­ties in the U.S., even with­out a travel ban legally in place: Muham­mad Ali Jr. was has­sled by bor­der of­fi­cials over his name and re­li­gion; an Ira­nian di­rec­tor didn’t at­tend the Academy Awards, where his doc­u­men­tary won an Os­car, be­cause of travel dif­fi­cul­ties; a French his­to­rian was stopped in Hous­ton and threat­ened with de­por­ta­tion as he tried to reach a con­fer­ence where he was sched­uled to speak.

With all that doubt, it’s not sur­pris­ing that peo­ple are look­ing else­where.

The mes­sage, pretty clearly, is that you might not get where you want to go in the U.S., and even if you do, you may end up with an un­wel­come has­sle along with way.

Therein lies an op­por­tu­nity to be the sil­ver lin­ing to the United States’ travel cloud.

Let’s of­fer the op­por­tu­nity: show how we’re dif­fer­ent, cap­i­tal­ize on the fact that we are wel­com­ing while the U.S. seems fo­cused on clos­ing doors, rather than open­ing arms. Tar­get Europe and Bri­tain. High­light that we’d like to say “hello” while the U.S. is say­ing “good­bye.”

Face it: US$3 bil­lion is a heck of a pot of change, money that all four At­lantic prov­inces could use a share of.

We should be ramp­ing up our ef­forts to get peo­ple here — even work­ing to­gether — to make peo­ple feel wel­come, and teach them all about a new va­ca­tion des­ti­na­tion.

And maybe keep them com­ing back.

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