Steve Jones’ Say March 2017

So Donald Trump has thrown the world into confusion and divided us even further, as he promised he would. He didn’t use that particular terminology, of course. But that was always going to be the consequence of his policies. And so it proved.

But this isn’t a political rant. There’s been enough of that. It doesn’t need an Australian travel trade magazine to join the chorus of global disapproval, however tempting that may be for this particular columnist.

Looking at it purely from a leisure travel perspective, the concern for the industry must be the potential impact Trump’s actions may have on tourist travel to the US.

Whatever you think of him, whether you find his approach abhorrent, or whether you buy into his rhetoric to Make America Great Again — and let’s not forget there are tens of millions of people who do — it’s fair to say he has not exactly laid out the welcome mat.

Do we really want to visit and spend our money with such a reluctant host?

How Visit USA, the state representation firms and the many operators and wholesalers who sell tours to the US, must wince at the reputational damage the country has suffered, and fret over its impact on arrivals. The question they will be pondering is whether it will dampen the desire of Australians to travel across the Pacific. Will people make a political and moral statement and avoid the US as a holiday destination?

It would be easy to say yes, and the widespread condemnation would suggest that will be the case. But I just can’t see it.

For starters, we all have short memories. Remember the outpouring of emotion in the immediate aftermath of the Bali executions? There was talk of a travel boycott to Indonesia, Bali in particular. Yet it didn’t materialise. Within days, momentum faded. We all ran out of anger, or simply forgot and continued packing our suitcases and heading off for a cheap holiday to Kuta.

Similarly with Brexit. Amid fears of bitter disharmony and racial tension in the UK, Visit Britain, anxious over the potential impact on arrivals, issued statements insisting the country remained inclusive and welcoming. Tourism bosses needn’t have worried. Brexit arguments continue today but its impact on tourist numbers? Negligible.

So it will be with the US.

The US is a terrifically diverse country. Australian arrivals have soared in recent years, drawn by its cities, mountains, national parks and coastlines.

On a practical level, it’s an easy destination to visit, and a haven for families. We are familiar and comfortable with its culture. Furthermore, airfares remain excellent value.

Taking all this into account, it’s hard to see consumers adopting a moral stance and tearing up their plans.

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