One of the most controversial presidential campaigns in U.S. history is over (we think). You would think having a hotel operator in office would thrill the industry. So far that's not the case at all.
Republican Donald Trump’s surprise election as president of the U.S. and Democrat Hillary Clinton’s defeat shocked the world — and left the global travel industry scurrying to gather itself and look for answers.
No one can forecast the future, but at a minimum, there are concerns that new U.S. security policies could hinder immigration and inbound tourism from Mexico. A U.S. ban on Muslim visitors could cost $71 billion and up to 132,000 jobs annually, according to Euromonitor, and an economic downturn could leave Americans with less discretionary income to spend on vacations, both domestic and abroad.
As we did after the pro-Brexit vote in the UK, Skift reached out to travel industry leaders and influencers for their takes on the U.S. election. Reactions ranged from candor on the part of the Expedia CEO, who said the election showed how “disconnected” tech leaders are from the rest of the country, to Euromonitor’s view that Trump’s nativist rhetoric could provide opportunities for “home-grown American brands,” to the Asian American Hotel Owners Association’s hope that Trump’s victory might inspire more hoteliers to run for elective office.
Priceline Group Interim CEO Jeffery Boyd expressed optimism about the election, pointing to a Republican President and GOP-controlled Congress as leading potentially to a more favorable business climate.
On the U.S. opening up travel to Cuba in 2016, which Trump opposed, a TripAdvisor spokesperson took a wait-and-see attitude toward what the next president’s election will ultimately mean, while Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio, somewhat counterintuitively, saw the upcoming Republican control of the White House and Congress as grounds for optimism that the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba would be lifted. Marriott International vowed to protect its new business operations in Cuba.
Big U.S. airlines, including Delta, American, and United, expressed hope through a coalition they belong to that a Trump presidency would mean the renegotiation of Open Skies agreements and limits on Gulf carriers’ access to the U.S. market. That’s a stance that much of the rest of the U.S. travel industry, including some other U.S. airlines, opposes.
But mostly, and regardless of what leaders of the travel industry might confide about the Trump election in private, there was a ton of caution from companies such as Expedia and organizations including the World Travel & Tourism Council and the U.S. Travel Association, for example, about the need to — or the belief that — the travel industry will remain a priority globally and also in Washington’s corridors of political power.
It’s worth noting that despite having a company involved in the hotel industry, with the exception of two casino executives Donald Trump received little verbal or financial support from any of his fellow travel industry leaders during his race for office.
The following are some of the reactions of travel industry leaders, companies, and organizations about the dramatic developments around the U.S. on November 8:
the Travel Industry Reacts
Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi from his personal Twitter account: “As tech leaders we have to admit that we are hugely disconnected with our nation. I don’t like it but have to recognize this issue.”
As tech leaders we have to admit that we are hugely disconnected with our nation. I don't like it but have to recognize this issue.
— dara khosrowshahi (@dkhos) November 9, 2016
Expedia Inc: “The close of this election season marks an end to a turbulent year of political back-and-forth. We are optimistic that with the election behind us, we will continue to work with leaders on both sides of the aisle to ensure travel remains a priority in Washington and in state capitols across the nation.”
The Priceline Group Interim CEO Jeffery Boyd: “Firstly, with a Republican President and a Republican Congress, we could potentially see a more favorable environment for business generally in the U.S., and perhaps an opportunity for corporate tax reform. But it remains to be seen whether some of Trump’s campaign rhetoric will reflect policy priorities in congress or whether international traveler behavior changes because of it.”
Momondo Group CEO Hugo Burge: “Whether Trump’s campaign stance of aggressive isolationism is pursued once he takes office remains to be seen, but it’s more important than ever — and the responsibility of everyone — to keep fighting for a more open world.
“If that focus is maintained, it is very hard to see how the genie of globalisation can be stuffed back in its bottle. It has been the catalyst for the free movement and ability to travel we take to be a right, not a privilege… We’re regularly reminded of the resilience of people to face down the barriers thrown up against them, and the increased traffic to our websites by people searching for travel information during — or even in spite of — these turbulent times reflects that. We hope openness and togetherness prevails over fear in this case as well.”
U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow: “I congratulate President-elect Trump on behalf of the U.S. travel and tourism community, and am confident that he will be a valuable ally in advancing some of our industry’s key priorities. Mr. Trump demonstrated throughout his campaign that travel and infrastructure issues have his attention, and we stand ready to advise his administration on achieving his stated aims in these areas.
“We are encouraged that Mr. Trump’s extensive business and hospitality background — not to mention that travel accounts for 10 percent of all U.S. exports and creates jobs in every single congressional district — will make him a ready and receptive ear for our agenda. Mr. Trump has explicitly highlighted the challenges facing our nation’s airports and our aviation security system on his path to the White House. He has voiced great enthusiasm for modernizing our roads, rails and airports with his promise to invest $500 billion in infrastructure reform.”
Partnership for Open & Fair Skies (American, Delta, United, Airline Pilots Association, and several other unions) spokesperson Jill Zuckman: “We look forward to briefing President-elect Donald Trump and his new administration on the massive, unfair subsidies that the UAE and Qatar give to their state-owned Gulf carriers. The Gulf carrier subsidies threaten the jobs of 300,000 U.S. aviation workers and the American aviation industry as a whole, and we are optimistic that the Trump administration will stand up to the UAE and Qatar, enforce our trade agreements and fight for American jobs.”
Euromonitor, international head of travel Caroline Bremner: “Travel and tourism is directly impacted by government policies on trade and immigration. Trump’s campaign rhetoric focused on immigration and the relationship particularly with Mexico will have a direct bearing on the performance of U.S. tourism, as Mexico is expected to overtake Canada by the end of 2016 to be the largest source of tourism demand to the U.S. The Trump presidency will also impact the flow of Muslim travelers to the U.S., with the Council on Foreign Relations estimating that a potential travel ban on Muslims to the U.S. could cost up to $71 billion per year and up to 132,000 jobs.
“After Brexit, it was expected that the UK would benefit from Americans seeking value for money and taking advantage of the depreciation of the pound to visit the UK. The declining dollar in response to the increased levels of uncertainty surrounding future economic policies will act as a drag on outbound U.S. travel. However, it will stimulate increased demand for domestic tourism, as Americans will have less discretionary income as the U.S. economy decelerates, making the staycation a more affordable travel option to many.
“Although a Trump downturn, should it occur, would have a negative impact across a wide range of consumer markets, this impact will not be catastrophic. In addition there could also be opportunities for home-grown American brands, and those whose marketing message registers with Trump’s rhetoric and is centered on nostalgia, localism and heritage.”
Marriott International: “Given our roots in the Washington, D.C. region, Marriott has a long history of engaging with policymakers from both political parties, and we’ll continue that important dialogue. The outcome of the elections and the potential to impact our business depends on the Administration and Congress working together to govern, and it is too early to tell how those relationships will develop and which policies will surface as priorities.
“We remain focused on advancing our policy priorities to support our business and associates: comprehensive immigration reform, infrastructure investment, equality in the workplace, growing travel, protecting our ability to do business in Cuba, and adopting tax policies that strengthen the American economy.”
TripAdvisor spokesperson Brian Hoyt: “TripAdvisor has a license to conduct business in Cuba that extends into the next administration. While it is too early to tell what policy a Trump administration will have on Cuba and many other issues, we hope that this pro-business opportunity for Americans will continue to evolve and widen over time.”
A general release from the organization said “TripAdvisor’s mission is to unite people through the power of travel, and that does not change, regardless of who is in office.”
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings President and CEO Frank Del Rio, on Cuba: “With Mr. Trump’s win and his desire to grow our economy, coupled with the Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, I am more optimistic than ever that the embargo will be lifted soon, thus fully opening the door for commerce to flourish between our two countries.”
Airlines for America: “As noted in his acceptance speech and during his campaign, Trump’s one trillion dollar plan to improve infrastructure is a first 100 days priority and recognized as a growth engine for creating high-paying, skilled jobs that move our economy forward.”
The organization’s President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio said “We look forward to working with the Transition Team on strengthening our infrastructure in the sky to meet the nation’s growing demands on the ground. The current U.S. Air Traffic Control system, while safe, is an inefficient relic of the 1940s. We’re eager to work with President-Elect Trump to transform it to reduce delays for the 2.2 million passengers and 50,000 tons of cargo that fly every day, while accommodating future growth and demand for travel and shipping.”
Asian American Hotel Owners Association President and CEO Chip Rogers: “We congratulate President-elect Donald Trump on his victory today. Mr. Trump’s candidacy was already history-making as the first time a hotel owner was a major-party candidate. We hope his victory inspires more hotel owners and small business entrepreneurs to step up and run for elected office in the future. We need more hoteliers as lawmakers. Though the campaigns didn’t always focus on the issues, we’re glad that both candidates spoke about how to continue to boost America’s economy – most notably by helping small businesses thrive and create jobs.
“Our members are the definition of the American Dream, and they want their children to be able to carry on their legacy. We look forward to working with the Trump administration on finding the many areas of agreement. Congratulations are also in order for Hillary Clinton. Her candidacy was history-making, as well, as the first woman to be a major-party nominee. We hope her candidacy is also an inspiration to young women across the country.”
World Travel & Tourism Council President and CEO David Scowsill: “Current global security threats can only be effectively addressed through strong and concerted collaborative efforts by governments, the international community, the private sector, and civil society. The organisations which constitute GTAC are committed to working with partners around the world to ensure that security and facilitation go hand in hand.”
American Society of Travel Agents President and CEO Zane Kerby: “ASTA’s mission to represent the travel agency community remains unchanged. ASTA has maintained relationships with lawmakers and regulators that span years and decades. Building on our success since 1931, ASTA is excited to begin 2017 with a renewed focus on both advocacy and consumer awareness initiatives, and a continued commitment to be the one, unified voice for the travel agency community.”
Nomadness Travel Tribe Founder Evita Robinson: “We are fortunate that we are in a business sector of many progressive thinkers that move around the world naturally. The talk of expatriatism [becoming an expatriate] has accelerated, as has the need for escapism that travel can provide. Being that we are 80 percent travelers of color, the like-mindedness of movements like ours is what’s going to sustain, and grow us, going forward. Nomadness is unique in that it is a business that is also a tangible community. I believe now more than ever, community is crucial to everyone’s next steps forward with this presidency.”
Robinson also noted that it’s too early to determine the financial repercussions for her business. “We need to see how much of [Trump’s] talk is walked out.”
Black & Abroad Co-Founder Kent Johnson: “The conversations I’ve had today with locals [in Johannesburg, South Africa] have shifted from shock to concern. I’m sure Black & Abroad will see an uptick in interest for articles from our expat contributors and a shift in searches for living abroad… I think, if anything, we will see an increase in sales, as representation will become that much more important to our community of travelers.”
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Photo credit: Donald Trump stands in front of his airplane as he speaks during a rally in Bentonville, Arkansas. Trump won the U.S. presidential election November 8. John Bazemore / Associated Press