This year, there was a considerable increase in the number of agents who cited an "unfavorable opinion of U.S." as an issue that most affected agency revenue in 2016 (15%, up from 10%). A new option this year, "government policies on travel and immigration," was cited by 17% of respondents. News editor Johanna Jainchill spoke to Abraham Pizam, dean of the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, about the intersection of politics and travel.
Q: How much of an impact on travel does political rhetoric really have?
A: It's very significant, in my opinion. After all is said and done, that's the image we're projecting overseas. There are countries more or less in love with the U.S. regardless of what leadership is saying; they'd support and want to spend time and money here. There are countries that are neutral or not so much in love with the U.S., and in that case they will be affected by statements like "America first." That statement by itself says something about what we value and how welcoming we are to citizens of other countries.
Q: Will Americans also defer going abroad because of these concerns?
A: Yes, it goes both ways, because the minute you are identified as an American it's assumed you support that view. When I travel, I say, "Don't put us all into one big category." And people will understand it, but we don't have the luxury, each one of us, to say, "I don't agree with that policy, and please don't judge me."
Q: For how long does something like this usually have an impact?
A: As long as the rhetoric is going on and on and on, the perception will remain the same. If it quiets down and the major issues are resolved, it will dissipate. As long as we talk about it again and again, and raise the flag and talk about patriotism, we will not be perceived well overseas.