‘Trump Slump’ doesn’t exist, says head of US tourism

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The controversial presidency of Donald Trump is not having a negative impact on the American tourism industry, the man in charge of marketing the US to the world has told Telegraph Travel.

A number of sources earlier this year and last reported that the number of international visitors to America was down as much as 5 per cent, losing the US economy up to £140million a week, according to the Global Business Travel Association. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) said that arrivals fell by 4 per cent in the first six months of 2017, in the wake of Trump’s inauguration.

The fall in visitor numbers has been labelled the “Trump Slump” and seen as a consequence of the President’s outspoken views and attempt to ban travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.

Tom Garzilli, chief marketing officer for Brand USA, the country’s tourist board, however, said that Trump was not deterring visitors.

“What we have found and this is true of travel all over the world is it really transcends politics, it transcends the issues of the day,” he said.

“People are travelling, people want to have great experiences. We know that we offer these things and our job is to get up and remind, educate and inspire.”

Despite various authorities previously reporting a fall in international arrivals to the US, the National Travel and Tourism Office in America recently revised its 2017 figures, stating that the country had actually experienced a growth of 0.7 per cent from 2016 to 76.9 million. In 2016, however, the figure of 75.9 million represented a fall of 2 per cent on 2015, the first decrease since 2009.

In a Telegraph Travel poll conducted at the start of the year, 56 per cent of respondents said Donald Trump puts them off visiting the US.

Garzilli, who was in London for the premiere of a new tourism film at the Science Museum, America’s Musical Journey, said the US had seen falls from “certain countries”.

“Those headwinds change,” he said. “We’re feeling like we are moving ahead, we are growing in certain markets, and we’re confident in this market [the UK] that we’re seeing growth.”

Garzilli was confident the US would see continued growth in the coming years.

“What I’ve really learnt in the five years I’ve been [at Brand USA] is enforcing that the world really loves America,” he said. “The world wants to know America, they want to come, our job is to just inspire them into action, and give them the tools to plan.”

More evidence of a fall in interest in travel to America came in the form of flight searches, courtesy of Kayak, at the end of last year. The flight comparison website found that the majority of US cities, including San Francisco, Orlando and Las Vegas, had seen demand for flights fall, some in double-digit figures.

Garzilli said that new routes to secondary cities, such as British Airways’ service to Nashville, are helping open up the country to British visitors.

The weak pound owing to the uncertainty of Brexit negotiations also means that travel in the States is more expensive than it has been in decades gone by, though a weakened dollar has mitigated sterling’s slump.

Garzilli said that one tourist board’s attempts to showcase the value of a trip across the Pond is to highlight destinations where visitors can see a number of different places within easy reach.

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