U.S. Tourism Tumble Isn’t Just a “Trump Slump”

Matt Cordio | Co-founder and President of Skills Pipeline

Tourism is down in the U.S. and many of Donald Trump’s detractors and political opponents are trying to pin it on him, calling it the “Trump Slump.” They point out that the U.S. share of international travel declined from 13.6 percent in 2015 to 11.9 percent last year, as if no further argument is necessary. Foreigners are just obviously taking a look at the political goings-on here and deciding to steer clear. They say this as if Barack Obama wasn’t president in 2016, and as if some effects of one administration don’t carry over to another.

The truth is more complicated, but still troubling. Under Obama, America began slumping as a global destination at the same time that saw long-haul travel increase 7.9 percent. We have received 7.4 million fewer visitors than we should have with our 2015 share of the travel market. According to the number crunchers, that likely translates to 100,000 jobs not created here because we could not maintain our market share.

In any event, it’s a lot less money spent here than would have been spent. Each international visitor spends on average $4,300 when traveling overseas, so you can easily do the math. According to my back-of-the-envelope calculations, 7.4 million fewer visitors x $4,300 a head makes for a $31.4 billion pie that we didn’t get a cut of.

The strength of the dollar is one reason for this decline, but there are other reasons that should be addressed. Instead, a bunch of Democratic lobbyists, in league with the big airlines are trying to make one source of our prosperity the scapegoat.

Well known Democrats such as Jim Messina of Beacon Global Strategies and Clinton loyalist Philippe Reines are running a false and misleading campaign against “Open Skies” rules. These international agreements, which seek to get governments as far out of the business of airlines as possible, have given more freedom to airlines the globe over to set their own routes, capacity and prices in international markets.

Much competition has ensued. This has been a major boon to travelers. Economists estimate prices for flights subject to Open Spies agreements have fallen some 32 percent. The U.S. Travel Association thinks that has resulted in about $4 billion worth of benefit for travelers. And a lot of that can be passed on to the visited country in terms of more money spent on food, lodging, activities, and souvenirs.

So, why in the world, at a time of declining market share, would Democratic lobbyists attack Open Skies rules and spear its supporters as “Never Trumpers”? They are attacking at the behest of U.S. airlines such as Delta, United, and American. These airlines don’t want any more competition and they have been known to chase subsidies and bailouts in down markets. Their mouthpieces are attacking supporters of Open Skies in such terms because they want to pull one over on the president, and convince him to ignore the very people who have the best advice over the long term for attracting more travelers to the U.S.

What we need is much, much more Open Skies, not less. Here’s hoping that President Trump, and his economic advisors such Peter Navarro can see through these transparent attempts to sway them and stand with the American people, who want more jobs, and not with big American airlines and their Democratic lobbyists.

Navarro, incidentally, recently resolved a U.S. dispute with Qatar over the Open Skies agreement that all parties found acceptable. If the White House continues to do the right thing here, in a few years we might even be talking about the Trump Bump in travel.

Matt Cordio is the Co-founder and President of Skills Pipeline, a technology talent solutions company.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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