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More people are travelling than ever before, yet the number of people choosing the US as a destination is declining – America is bucking the trend and not in a good way.
According to new insights from the US Travel Association, visitor numbers contracted in four out of the seven months for which data is available this year, fueling fears that Donald Trump's policies are putting tourists off visiting the US.
The declines were steepest in February (6.8 per cent) and March (8.2 per cent) immediately after the so-called "Muslim ban" came into force, which prevented citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen) from entering the US.
They are hardly massive markets, but the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) reckons that in the week the order came into effect, the US lost $US185 million ($A231 million) in travel bookings. By the end of the year it predicts the policy will have cost the US more than $US330 million in lost revenue from Middle Eastern travellers alone.
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) also believes the President's policies are having a cooling effect on US-bound tourism beyond the banned countries, a phenomenon known as the "Trump slump".
"The travel ban had an immediate impact on travel bookings to the US," a spokesperson for the WTTC told The Telegraph, London. "Not just from the initial seven countries where the ban applied to but other parts of the world as well."
Some citizens have taken it upon themselves to launch their own, small-scale PR campaigns to counter the Trump effect.
"Go home and tell your people that we don't like him either," one protester shouted to tourists on Saturday, during a rally outside Trump Towers.
But the toxicity of Trump is just part of the story; underpinning the decline in US-bound tourism has been the strong dollar, which has made it markedly more expensive for foreigners to visit.
In New York the starting rate for a schooner of beer is around $US6, which, by the time you've tipped, means you're paying more than $US7 for two thirds of a pint of beer.
"We believe the drop in visitors in the US over the first two quarters of 2017 is due to a combination of the inward-facing sentiment of the Trump administration and the strength of the dollar, [which has made] the US a more expensive country to visit," the WTTC said.
The good news for travellers is that the UD dollar is weakening again.
Nevertheless, fears linger about the short-term future of the country's travel industry.
"Inbound travel to the US already went through one 'lost decade' after 9/11," warned Roger Dow, president of the US Travel Association.
"It took a sustained national policy effort to return to the pre-9/11 level of travel exports, which only happened last year. If we don't want to give back all of that progress, the time to act is now."
Dow believes the decline could be arrested with greater investment in Brand USA, which markets the country abroad, and, in a thinly-veiled shot at Trump, "policies that enable international travel to the US".
The Telegraph, London
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