Is President Donald Trump Bad News for Florida's Tourism?
In the wee hours of Wednesday November 9, 2016, Republican nominee Donald Trump was elected new President of the United States, defeating his Democrat adversary Hillary Clinton in the final presidential race.
While just about everyone around the world is still reeling from what TIME called "one of the most shocking U.S. elections in modern political history," travel professionals are pondering what this could all mean for the tourism industry in the U.S. in general, and especially for Florida.
Just as the election itself until late in the night, the answers are still too early to call, especially since predicting anything at this point would undoubtedly look utterly preposterous, all the more after being told poll after poll that Mrs. Clinton would most likely take over the White House.
Still, as Florida remains a foremost travel destination in the U.S. and in the world, and in fact tourism is the Florida's No. 1 industry, generating nearly 1/4 of all total state's sales tax revenue, and employing close to one worker out of ten statewide..
So just as Florida was a key state to win for President Hopefuls Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, whatever name would come out of the ballot box would prove no less crucial for Florida. Turns out it's finally Trump (in case you weren't following so far)!
BRITISH TRAVEL INDUSTRY FEARS AN UPCOMING 'TRUMPAGEDDON'
Before we even get to what may happen specifically to Florida, we first need to consider any consequence of the Trump presidency on the domestic tourism industry as a whole, a sector that contributes a whopping $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy.
As it just so happens, the world's tourism industry was meeting this week in London at the World Travel Market 2016, a three-day event gathering 5,000 exhibitors, and over 50,000 senior travel industry professionals, international press, and government representatives.
Given the peculiar timing coincidence, the question that was most heard in and around the WTM this year was inevitably: "Who'd be the best President for tourism?"
While Trump's persona does, most often than not, bring about at best long faces and quizzical looks in most foreign countries, you could have thought that his position as a long-standing real estate and tourism mogul may have won him a few supporters amongst his fellow travel pro crowd. Well, not quite.
In fact, with typical British humor, the doomsayers were therefore quick to give a catchy name to that overall anti-tourism Trump angst: "Trumpaggedon".
When asked who'd the best candidate for the future of tourism, 36% of travel professionals responded "Hillary Clinton", 36% said it doesn't really matter, while only 10% did favor Donald Trump, according to the WTM 2016 Industry Report.
Even worse for the President-elect, 60% said Hillary Clinton would be better news for their business, vs. a meager 7% for Donald Trump. Need worser than worse? CNN's mock election at WTM had 550 VIPs to vote for their favorite: Hillary Clinton: 94%, Donald Trump: 6%!
In the UK paper The Independant, Joel Brandon-Bravo, national managing director for Travelzoo (allegedly the world's the largest publisher of travel, entertainment and local deals), confirmed the Trumpaggedon anguish, saying that his company is "now forecasting an unstable 2017 for US tourism, with over one million UK travelers set to reconsider the country as a holiday destination.”
WORLD'S TRAVEL INDUSTRY WARY OF TRUMP'S STANCE ON IMMIGRATION & TRAVEL
In Germany, France, and other major EU countries, the election of Mr. Trump came as nothing short of a shock, and the European travel industry feels no different about the "level of uncertainty" the surprise win is bringing about.
French travel executive Jean-Pierre Mas, President of "Entreprises du Tourisme", declared in the wake of the election that it was "no good news for (French) tourism towards the United States, and certainly no good news for Americans going to foreign countries".
"A victory by Republican candidate Donald Trump represents the worse of the two scenarios for the US travel and tourism industry," added Euromonitor who published study results about "The 2016 Elections and the US Travel and Tourism Industry" just days before the presidential ballot.
The research echoed Donald Trump's vow to stop immigration "from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism" back in July, later ruling out banning individuals from top US allies like France and Germany, arguing in a NBC News interview that "they have totally been" compromised by terrorism.
CNN even went so far as counting exactly how many countries could be hit by such stark anti-immigration plans, reaching the number of 40. "All told, as many as 10.2 million people could be barred from the U.S." out of the 7.5+ million tourists that traveled to the U.S. in 2014 from these countries.
TRAVEL BANS & SECURITY COULD COST TENS OF BILLIONS
While this is a far-fetched, worst case scenario, real concerns remain for potential inbound traveling populations that have been repeatedly targeted by Mr. Trump during what is considered one of the most brutal electoral campaign ever.
Muslims from any country may simply be barred for entering the US in a near future, per Mr. Trump's official statements in various press releases. "The total cost of Donald Trump’s ban could be as high as $18.4 billion," warns Travel & Leisure, notwithstanding any impeding cost of what that measure would mean for implementing it.
The $18.4 billion figure seems almost optimistic, compared to the US foreign policy think tank Council on Foreign Relations, who estimates for his part that "a travel ban on Muslims to the US could cost up to $71 billion per year and up to 132,000 jobs".
Besides Muslims, Mexicans have also felt quite a negative vibe from the new President-elect who has sworn over and over that he would "build a great, great wall on our southern border," and make Mexico pay for it.
If that wall goes up, the estimated $583.6 billion US-Mexico trade "could plummet if a border wall turns away Mexican shoppers who buy food, clothing and other goods in U.S. border towns," says International Business Times. Euromonitor confirms that "Mexico tourism, which is the second largest source market for inbound travelers to the US behind only Canada," could also be hit.
Finally, not many potential foreign travelers will be especially pleased at tightened security and immigration controls, no matter what good it does to actual security, especially when "ensuring that a biometric entry-exit visa tracking system is fully implemented at all land, air, and sea ports" is #8 priority on "Donald J. Trump’s 10 Point Plan to Put America First".
WHAT THIS COULD MEAN FOR FLORIDA TOURISM INDUSTRY
In light of multiple warnings, fears and actual risks of serious downturn for the travel industry in the upcoming Trump's version of America, there are reasons to worry for Florida's tourism come 2017.
While published on April 1st, Tampa Bay's piece called "Could a Donald Trump victory scare foreign tourists away from Florida and the U.S.?" was no joke, and is resonating even stronger now that the deal is sealed.
Back then, Pinellas County tourism chief David Downing, while attending a major travel event in Germany, was stunned to find out that the main concern weren't the refugee crisis, the euro-dollar rates, not even the Zika virus, but "Trump effect on travel."
Altogether, UK, France, Germany, and Mexico are all major contributors to Florida Tourism according to Visit Florida, the official tourism corporation for the State of Florida.
Those four countries, whose travel habits may potentially be adversely affected by Donald Trump's policies and personal image, accounted last year for 2.961.000 of the 10.276.000 tourists (28.8%) that make up the Top 10 visiting foreign countries.
Any sudden decline from these sources of tourism revenues could severely hit Florida. Despite official claims that the Sunshine State is "THE top travel destination in the world", Florida is more likely the second most popular destination just in the US, behind California, according to other sources.
Still, tourism remains by far the largest statewide industry, and for sure all travel professionals would love it to stay that way.