Is the U.S. on the verge of a “tourism shock”? One digital travel agency is claiming the answer is YES. Its analytics reveal the interest in traveling to the USA in 94 countries has fallen sharply since the Trump inauguration and travel ban.
17% drop in flight searches to USA
A company called Hopper compared the number of daily searches from international origins to the US before and after the election. It averaged searches for the two weeks leading up to the election and the three weeks after, finding an overall drop in search traffic of 17%.
Demand fell in 94 of 122 origin countries in which “significant data” exists. For the seven nations directly impacted by the travel ban, searches to the USA are down 33%. An unsurprising outlier is Russia, where searches for travel to the USA are up 88%. New York and Boston have suffered the least while West Coast traffic like San Francisco and Las Vegas has been hit hardest.
Comparing the same period one year earlier, a decline of only 1.8% occurred (i.e., 17% decline this year, 1.8% decline over the same period last year).
Searches from Sudan dropped the most (44%) while searches from China, Denmark, Ireland, and New Zealand all dropped by more than 30%. Spain was the only country in Western Europe in which searches rose (+9%). Check out the stats for each county here.
No Impact on Pricing…Yet
Thus far, the drop in demand has not impacted pricing. It seems to me any pricing comparison would be skewed anyway with the proliferation of low-cost carriers. In light of the ban being overturned, demand has started to recover, but remains very weak.
The data utilized for this study comes from Hopper’s real-time “shadow traffic” containing the results of consumer airfare searches. Hopper collects, from several Global Distribution System partners, ten to fifteen billion airfare price quotes every day from searches happening all across the web.
Causation v. Correlation?
The methodology appears sound and statistically significant. Still, think of the other factors that could be in play. Could the U.S. dollar’s strength also be a culprit? Indeed, the dollar has strengthened over the last year, but it actually weakened in January. It seems to be on the rebound in February, but so is demand for USA travel.
What about low fares to other places? We have certainly witnessed a boom in low-cost travel options to destinations around the world. It is conceivable that other destinations are simply more attractive at the moment.
Yet the sharp drop in such a short period presents strong evidence that the new administration and travel ban are behind a drop in traffic. The fact that searches are way down in banned countries, China, and Western Europe while up in Russia and former CIS nations all suggest politics is at play.
For the sake of the airline, hotel, and tourism industry, I trust that these numbers will not stick. For those considering a trip to the USA, I can assure you that once you get past the border it is a very pleasant place!