It has happened. The unthinkable. The man whose presidential bid every pollster, pundit and politician considered an impossibility has won the US presidency. Donald Trump built his campaign on divisive rhetoric, inflammatory statements, and racially charged threats. When challenged, he only became more bullish in his views, and the American people chose him to become their next president.
So, will Trump’s election make an impact on your USA travel plans? In terms of ‘ethical’ travel destinations, people hold a vast array of differing viewpoints. Whilst the government of a country may not affect the beauty of that country, it’s people’s warmth, and the tastiness of its food, the question remains: is it ethical to spend your money in a country with a corrupt government, or a poor human rights record? I have always wanted to visit North Korea. But would I feel right, in paying a decent sum of cash to Kim Jong Un’s oppressive government, so that I could experience the Splendour of the DPRK’s cities and breathtaking countryside, with its tantalizing, secretive, almost illicit feel? The answer is profoundly personal for each one of us.
Of course, the United States is not about to start executing people by Mortar Round (we hope!) but nevertheless, Trump’s meteoric rise upon the back of unashamedly racist, misogynistic, and hateful speeches leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of many travellers like myself. We have spent years crossing borders, stumbling and smiling our way through language barriers, and breaking down preconceived notions between nationalities through conversation and laughter. All the while, Trump has built his reputation on throwing up walls, closing borders, and casting out migrants, we have spent assimilating with the very people he has been scapegoating. We must also remember that it is not just Trump who holds these views. Half of the country’s voters put Trump where he is today.
Aside from any moral or ethical implications of US travel now or in the future, the world will no doubt we watching America carefully over the coming weeks and months. If Trump comes good on his fiery rhetoric on closing borders, tightened security, and even excluding people based on their religion (Islam) then this will without doubt have effects on the America’s image as a travel-friendly destination.
Will people of non-Caucasian descent still look at the US as an attractive holiday destination, when they risk the indignity of being excluded or interrogated based on the colour of their skin, or their faith? Will people we willing to brave the inescapable huge queues at US airports and immigration centres if Trump implements his plan to increase security on the countries’ borders?
The early signs are there already. Flight comparison websites have reported a decline in searches for the flights to the US, And several surveys and polls conducted in Britain prior to and just after the US election reported that as many as a quarter of respondents stated they would “definitely” not consider the USA as a destination if Trump were elected. With almost 4 million Britons travelling to the US every year, these percentages may certainly translate into quite an impact on the volume of people travelling to the US from the UK and Europe.
As we have recently seen with stock markets, uncertainty causes paralysis and inertia, and the same may be true of how the election’s effect on tourism will play out. The USA has long been the most popular long haul holiday destination for European tourists, once the dust from the most divisive election campaign in history settles, so may many people’s nerves on reconsidering the US as a travel destination. This will of course, depend on Trump’s determination to stick to his own ideas regarding restrictions and security and background checks for tourists. Perhaps a drop in tourism will be somewhat self-imposed. Islam is one of the most populous religions on earth. Trump’s plan to “freeze” all Muslims from entering the country would exclude a sizable amount of potential tourists, and send a message of isolation to many other peoples and groups.
So, is the surprising outcome America’s election likely to influence travel to the US? The short answer is, it’s too early to tell. Polls and Surveys indicate yes, but as we well know, these mediums have been less than accurate in recent events. We will be watching.