Trump blow to tourist in­dus­try feared

Financial Times Middle East - - Companies - MU­RAD AHMED LEISURE CORRESPONDENT

Don­ald Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies have fu­elled anti-US sen­ti­ment that is ex­pected to lead to falls in trav­eller num­bers to the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to a tourism body.

The World Travel and Tourism Coun­cil said moves by the US ad­min­is­tra­tion, such as at­tempts to ban travel from cer­tain coun­tries, would have the “un­in­tended con­se­quence” of fewer tourists en­ter­ing the US this year.

The strength of the dol­lar was an­other fac­tor dis­cour­ag­ing in­bound travel.

The find­ings come as groups such as Hil­ton Ho­tels, Mar­riott In­ter­na­tional and In­ter Con­ti­nen­tal Ho­tels Group bat­tles low­ing growth in rev­enue per avail­able room in the US.

The WTTC pointed to “early signs” of fall­ing trav­eller in­ter­est based on flight search data col­lected by travel soft­ware group For­ward Keys.

Air­line book­ings to the US were down 6.5 per cent in the week af­ter Mr Trump is­sued his first or­der against the en­try of cit­i­zens of seven Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries, later blocked by the courts.

When the ad­min­is­tra­tion sought to in­tro­duce a re­vised or­der last week, a fed­eral court in Hawaii blocked the at­tempt. One of the ar­gu­ments raised by the state was the ex­pected dam­age to its tourist in­dus­try.

“[The ban] had an un­in­tended ef­fect in send­ing out a mes­sage to the whole of the world that the US is not as open for busi­ness and is now start­ing to be un­friendly,” David Scowsill, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of the WT TC, said.

Arne Soren­son, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Mar­riott, in Septem­ber warned that ris­ing na­tion­al­ism “could have a pro­found im­pacton travel”.

The WTTC an­nual re­port fore­cast that the travel and tourism sec­tor, which contributed $1.5tn to the US econ­omy, or 8.1 per cent of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct, would grow at 2.3 per cent in 2017, a con­trac­tion of 0.5 per­cent­age points com­pared with last year.

Spend­ing by for­eign vis­i­tors in the US was fore­cast to fall 0.6 per cent, mainly due to the strength of the dol­lar.

The WTTC said trav­ellers would seek al­ter­na­tives, with the most likely ben­e­fi­cia­ries be­ing Canada, Mex­ico, the Caribbean and the Mediter­ranean.

In the UK, the WT TC fore­cast a 6.2 per cent rise in spend­ing by in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors this year, as tourists take ad­van­tage of the weak pound.

The global travel and tourism sec­tor grew 3.3 per cent in 2016, gen­er­at­ing $7.6 tn, the sixth straight year of growth.

South­east Asia is the fastest grow­ing re­gion.

The strong dol­lar is among fac­tors dis­cour­ag­ing travel to the US

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