From the publisher
American tourism has a problem.
Whether you blame the policies of Donald Trump, the strong US dollar or other factors, America’s global market share has been showing a steady decline, despite the best efforts of the US Travel Association.
At last month’s IPW trade show in Denver, Colorado, USTA president Roger Dow noted that America’s market share declined from 13.6% to 11.9% between 2015 and 2017.
It’s not all doom and gloom, with plenty of bright spots, but overall the economic impact of the decline is more significant than the closure of ten manufacturing plants, Dow said, with the drop translating into US$32 billion in lost visitor spending and 100,000 fewer US jobs.
Questions from the floor related mostly to visitors from Muslim-majority and Spanish-speaking countries, who are reportedly voting with their feet by going elsewhere in the face of US policies.
However I strongly suspect the negative sentiment is also likely to be impacting Australian arrivals.
As a case in point, I needed to renew a journalist’s visa in order to travel to IPW, a task which is necessary every five years.
That required a visit to the US consulate in Sydney, and although a time-consuming (and expensive) process, things went smoothly.
Waiting in the queue I had a chat to another applicant, and asked her why she was applying for a visa.
This woman was an avid traveller and was eagerly looking forward to exploring the USA on an upcoming extended, big-spending holiday.
However when she applied online for the US$14 ESTA under the Visa Waiver Program, she was denied — simply because she had recently travelled on a holiday to Iran, with that passport stamp meaning she had to go through the complex process of a formal visa application.
Another negative factor is a plan to request social media histories from prospective visa applicants.
It’s all well and good to support the Global Entry Program, which pre-vets arrivals and smooths the process, but this costs US$100/pax — not money a leisure traveller will spend.
And don’t get me started on the still awful arrival experience at LAX.
I love the USA and have had many great family holidays there — in fact I’ll be there again in a week’s time.
But every negative factor puts a question mark in the mind of potential tourists, who literally have a whole world of alternatives to consider for their holidays.