If tourists from the United States are unofficial ambassadors to the world, then the worst among them are ensuring that local residents will resent them and more destinations will erect barriers to entry.
If hospitality is all about welcoming guests with a cuddly embrace, then many destinations around the world will likely become increasingly inhospitable to tourists from the United States as more begin to travel again.
Or if these countries indeed don’t erect new and official barriers such as exclusionary travel bubbles to visitors from the United States, then many of their citizens may be openly hostile — even with the tradeoff of U.S. dollars that poured into local economies.
With some parallels to the 1960s, when the U.S. role in the Vietnam War spurred global calls of “Yankee Go Home,” and when some tourists from the U.S. would have preferred to pass themselves off as the more sympathetically received Canadians, welcome mats are going missing for American tourists in some destinations.
Indeed, American exceptionalism appears to have run its course. The divisive Trump years did no favors for the reputation of U.S. citizens abroad, or even in others part of the country.
In Puerto Rico, during spring break, with throngs of U.S. travelers cavorting around the Condado tourism district in San Juan, you can hear residents complaining that some maskless American tourists are having loud parties, causing fights, and are being disrespectful to locals. Whether it is in Miami Beach, Florida, or Puerto Rico, which is part of the U.S., American visitors don’t have to leave their borders to create havoc.
“Did you read about the problem of some tourists in Puerto Rico?,” a Ponce, Puerto Rico spa owner said, referring to the influx of North Americans staying in hotels and Airbnbs. “What is their concept of Puerto Rico by behaving that way? What do you think? They are terrible people.”
CNBC reported that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration continues its crackdown, including prosecutions that seek jail sentences, against airline passengers behaving badly. Since the tail end of last year, there have been more than 500 reported instances of unruly passengers, with many refusing to wear masks, and some even assaulting flight crew.
The spate of racially motivated murders and attacks, including the recent Atlanta shootings that killed six Asian-American women, will almost certainly lead to a backlash against U.S. tourists in China, and other countries in Asia, too.
Chinese Tourists Shunning the U.S.
Of course, another dynamic is occurring, as well, as those much-coveted Chinese tourists — many with big wallets primed for luxury shopping and hotel stays — will shun visiting Disney and Orlando theme parks, as well as U.S. national parks, Tiffany’s in New York City, and Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles.
Brand USA, the public-private marketing arm of U.S. tourism, had its work cut out for it because of former President Trump’s Muslim bans and anti-immigrant policies even before the pandemic. Trump, who managed relentlessly to stir up anti-Asia sentiment with his exhortations about “the China virus” throughout the Covid-19 crisis, and has continued to do so even after exiting the White House.
In the summer, Skift reported how Hawaii would rather open to tourists from Japan, Korea and Australia than to make way to fellow citizens from mainland U.S., and how parts of the world view U.S. tourism in either direction as a “pariah.”
With the murder of Asian women in Atlanta and the torrent of hate crimes and violence against Chinese and other Asians throughout the U.S., the resentment against American tourists is accelerating so many more tourism rebuffs may be in order.
Of course, tourists behaving badly — UK and other football hooligans traveling to party and see matches come to mind — isn’t strictly a U.S. thing, although obnoxious American tourists are amply represented as the travel recovery gets under way.
In Skift’s Travel Megatrends 2025, a speculative look about the travel industry four years ahead, we wrote that travelers will be “shocked into a new consciousness,” and will make more deliberative, respectful, and soulful choices about their global meanderings.
But then there is a strong current within American mass tourism, where the worst among those partaking haven’t taken heed.
Photo credit: Americans, like those pictured here, may not be welcomed back as easily in foreign countries as they begin to travel again. Walter Bibikow / Getty Images