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October 19, 2017

What’s worse for a country’s tourist industry, a category five hurricane or a divisive president?

By GlobalData Travel & Tourism

Both the Caribbean and the US are currently facing challenges to their tourist industries.

While the Caribbean recovers from the effects of hurricanes Irma and Maria, the US is experiencing a fall in arrivals attributed to its controversial president, Donald Trump.

And the Trump presidency is going to create a more long-term challenge.

Trump ran a divisive and hostile campaign ahead of his election, promising to build a wall between the US and Mexico, as well as ban Muslims entering the country.

His time in office has not lived up to his ambitious campaign rhetoric, but, he has tried to implemente a travel ban from mostly Muslin countries, withdrawn from the Paris agreement, and signed an executive order to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Perhaps most alarmingly, was Trump’s failure to denounce white supremacists following a rally which ended in a death of an anti-racism protester.

Such actions give the impression of an unfriendly and inward looking country; a country unwelcoming to foreigners.

Understandably, tourists may no longer feel comfortable or safe in the US and are consequently deciding not to visit.

The US Department of Commerce recorded a 7.8 percent fall in overseas arrivals (which excludes Canada and Mexico) in the first quarter of 2017 when compared to the same period in 2016.

This decline in tourist numbers will negatively impact the American economy, it is estimated the fall in arrivals from Mexico alone will cost the economy $1.1bn in 2017.

Much of the Caribbean was badly impacted by the hurricanes Irma and Maria, with infrastructure and local businesses severely damaged.

But, the Caribbean is much more dependent on tourism than the US, and the revenue generated from tourist expenditure will be essential for the region to start to rebuild.

Puerto Rico — one of the worst effected countries in the region — has proved determined to not let tourist arrivals suffer: the Luiz Munos Marin International Airport has resumed its normal flight schedule, cruises are returning to the country, and a number of hotels are remaining in operation.

However, the Caribbean Tourism Organization predicts a decline in arrival growth, having experienced an annual rise of 5.2 percent in the first half of 2017, this is expected to fall between one percent and two percent for the latter half of the year.

Additionally, the type of tourist visiting Puerto Rico and the Caribbean is likely to change for the near future; many visitors are likely to be keen to help the recovery effort.

Undoubtedly, the ordinary residents of the Caribbean — who have lost their jobs and their homes — will suffer far greater from the effects of the two hurricanes than US citizens will from a Trump presidency.

But, the tourist industry has proved fairly resilient to the effects of the hurricanes, and as services such as hotels and cruises re-open, tourists will likely return to the region fairly quickly.

The impact of Trumps’ behaviour and policies will be more long-term, as international views of the US continue to grow more unfavourable, international tourists are likely to hold off visiting the country while the political and social climate remains hostile.