I am visiting Breckenridge in Colorado this week and have been chatting to tourism officials here about the significance of international tourists to their ski industry, and in particular, how the Mexican market has grown over the last decade. My immediate thought was: “Well, that’s a shame, because Donald Trump appears to be putting an end to that!” Perhaps I am wrong, but I expect the Mexican image of the US has been tarnished somewhat after recent political events, and as travelers we tend to visit places that we feel welcome. So the Mexicans may think twice about coming in the future, along with some of America's other big travel markets such as the UK. If around one million Brits are willing to sign a petition to prevent Trump visiting their country, they are not likely to come on vacation to the country that he leads. And, with the recent executive orders restricting travel to the US, a number of other countries are likely to boycott the US.
To me, this is disturbing on two accounts. Firstly, tourism is a significant part of the economy - destinations like Breckenridge rely on tourism. The 75 million visitors America receives each year spend over $250 billion. In fact, each overseas traveler spends approximately $4,400 when they visit the US and stays an average of 18 nights. But already, the US share of total international arrivals has gone down - from 7.5% in 2000 to 6.5% today - and Brand USA, the agency responsible for ‘selling’ the US to the rest of the world, has realized that their lofty goal of receiving 100 million tourists by 2021 is just not achievable.
But, secondly - and perhaps more importantly - travel makes the world a safer place (as does international trade). Research and experience have shown that two-way travel enhances friendships between peoples and facilitates cultural exchange, and there is a strong link between tourism and peace. As the Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization recently said: “Through travel we gain understanding, tolerance, and empathy for our fellow man – essential in the globalization era, where our global village can only prosper through harmonious living.”