The U.S. leisure and business travel sector is number one in the world, but President Trump’s immigration policies and a strong dollar is threatening to hurt that standing.
According to a report by the World Travel & Tourism Council, travel and tourism contributed $1.5 trillion or 8.1 percent of the U.S. GDP last year and supported more than 14 million jobs, which is 9.4 percent of total U.S. employment. This year, the WTTC said growth is expected to be at 2.3 percent, which is slower than the 2.8 percent seen in 2016.
Driving the growth in 2017 will be “strong outbound expenditures,” which the WTTC said is forecast to grow by 5.4 percent this year. “As the dollar strength is expected to persist, U.S.-based travel companies and tour operators selling outbound holidays will benefit from travel abroad becoming cheaper for U.S. citizens. The most likely beneficiaries of this strong growth are expected to be Canada and Mexico, as well as the Caribbean and Mediterranean destinations,” the WTTC wrote in a press release highlighting the report.
Visitor exports, or money spent by foreign visitors in the U.S., are expected to decrease by 0.6 percent, due largely to the continued strength in the dollar that makes the U.S. a pricier place to visit. Sentiment toward the U.S. has also suffered “significantly” in recent weeks, which the WTTC said is weighing on visitor exports.
“The U.S. is a beautiful and strong tourism destination. It currently ranks number one in the world in terms of the sector’s contribution to GDP, twice the size of the nearest competitor, China. Stimulated by the marketing approach of Brand USA, established in 2011, and the visa facilitation efforts undertaken, international arrivals have shown very strong growth over the last few years. For the U.S. to continue on this growth path, it is important to address the current forecast drop in inbound travel and to reverse the negative perceptions created by the proposed travel ban. After all, 9.4 percent of American jobs depend on travel and tourism,” David Scowsill, president and CEO of WTTC, said. “We urge the administration to recognize the importance of our sector, both to the economy and to American jobs.”