International tourism to the U.S. fell significantly in early 2017, especially among European travelers—and travel experts are blaming the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda for the economic hit.
Citing recently released data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the New York Times reports that the number of international visitors in the U.S. during the first three months of 2017 fell by roughly 700,000, compared with last year. There was a 4.2% decrease overall in international tourism, with an even bigger drop among travelers from Europe, whose numbers fell 10.1% for the quarter.
Industry experts have been anticipating a so-called “Trump slump” in international tourism for months. Early in the Trump presidency, around the time when Donald Trump issued a controversial order temporarily banning refugees and immigrants from several Muslim countries from entering the U.S., the search engine Hopper.com noted a sharp decline in searches for international flights bound for the U.S. Searches for flights to the U.S. from countries such as Ireland, China, Denmark, and New Zealand fell by more than 30% in one week.
Other studies conducted in early 2017 likewise indicated that international tourism would decrease significantly, particularly for visits to big cities like New York and Los Angeles. After polling firms around the world in early 2017, the Global Business Travel Association anticipated that international business travel to the U.S. would decline as well.
But because it would be months before official tourism numbers for early 2017 would become available, these reports were all just theoretical.
Now, however, we know that international tourism in the U.S. did indeed fall. In addition to Commerce Department data, a separate Travel Trends Index report published in early September also shows that the predicted slump has become a reality, with particularly “drastic” drops in international visitors in February and March—down 6.8% and 8.2%, respectively.
By way of comparison, the Times points out that international tourism to the U.S. was up 6.4% during the first three months of 2013, when Barack Obama was beginning his second term as president.
How much does the international tourism decline hurt the U.S. economy? The research firm Tourism Economics told the Times that the 4.2% drop during the first quarter of 2017 represents a loss of about $2.7 billion.
And while the White House isn’t the only factor—a stronger dollar and weaker euro also played a part—the firm contends that the global perception of the Trump administration is key to the downturn, per the Times:
The $2.7 billion decline in one quarter would mean we are on pace to hit Tourism Economics’ earlier forecast for 2017 overall, to the tune of $10.8 billion in lost spending.