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Route 66 News

Trump policies may reduce Route 66 tourism by foreign travelers

President Donald Trump, official portrait

A troubling sign has emerged that President Donald Trump’s policies may reduce visits to the United States by foreigners — a significant segment of Route 66 tourism.

Hopper, a mobile application that analyzes billions of pieces of airfare data around the globe daily reports flight-search demand from international countries has fallen 17 percent overall since Trump’s inauguration and his seven-nation travel ban.

The full report by Patrick Surry, chief data scientist at Hopper, is here. A few other bits of information from Hopper:

  • Flight-search demand to the U.S. has dropped in 94 of 122 countries where Hopper has gathered significant data.
  • International demand has declined for all major U.S. destinations. San Francisco and Las Vegas have seen the biggest drops.
  • “Last year, we saw only a 1.8 percent decline for the comparable time period, which suggests the change is not a simple seasonal effect,” Surry wrote.
  • An exception is Russia; flight-search demand to the U.S. from there has risen 88 percent.

In summary, Surry wrote:

“Unlike almost every other travel-related incident we’ve studied where short-term demand rises as people rush to confirm, change or cancel planned travel, Trump’s Executive Order have led to a significant drop in interest in traveling to the US. While some would argue that a reduction in foreign visitors is a positive outcome, it’s clear that the vast majority of these potential travelers are simply business people, tourists, family members, students and the like. If travel restrictions are reinstated it may send the message that visitors are no longer welcome in America and we could be seeing the start of a significant downturn for the travel & tourism industry.”

In a separate document, Surry provided a breakdown of the recent effect by country. Here are results from many nations that bring a significant number of Route 66 tourists:

  • China, down 33 percent
  • Ireland, down 32 percent
  • Denmark, down 31 percent
  • New Zealand, down 31 percent
  • Australia, down 25 percent
  • Sweden, down 22 percent
  • Germany, down 20 percent
  • Austria, down 16 percent
  • Brazil, down 16 percent
  • Norway, down 14 percent
  • Finland, down 13 percent
  • Belgium, down 9 percent
  • United Kingdom, down 9 percent
  • France, down 8 percent
  • Netherlands, down 6 percent
  • Czech Republic, down 5 percent
  • Switzerland, down 5 percent
  • Canada, down 4 percent
  • Italy, no change
  • Israel, no change
  • Japan, up 7 percent
  • Spain, up 9 percent

With destination cities, Chicago and Los Angeles — the spots where Route 66 trips mostly likely would begin — international searches are down 19 percent and 22 percent, respectively.

I’m inclined to take this report more seriously than anecdotes or polling data. Hopper measures billions of pieces of consumer-behavior data on the internet in real time. Its data are not subject to how a question is worded.

And having worked in the internet retail sector for a several years, you ignore such consumer data at your peril.

According to the Route 66 Economic Impact Report from 2011, at least 15 percent of Route 66 travelers are foreign, although its authors noted this figure is very conservative, mainly because many foreign tourists on Route 66 didn’t fill out the English-only survey. Many Route 66 businesses have reported one-quarter to nearly one-half of its visitors are international.

U.S. tourism officials have fretted for weeks about possible fallout from a Trump administration, which takes a harder line on immigration and foreign trade. The Hill and Fox Business News are among several media outlets that have reported about a possible effect.

Though Hopper’s data may signal a foreign-visitor downtown to the U.S., I feel compelled to add a few caveats specific to Route 66:

— Motivation. Those who travel Route 66 really want to travel it. Such travelers spend a lot of time preparing for their journey and will do it, damn the torpedoes. In many minds, Route 66 is the quintessential American experience, and it’s no coincidence it shows up on many so-called “bucket lists.” It stands to reason a higher percentage of people thinking about a Route 66 journey will follow through.

Demographic differences. Hopper measures global searches from everyone. Route 66 travelers tend to be older, more educated and wealthier than a typical traveler. Whether Route 66 travelers’ behavior matches global travelers’ behavior remains unknown.

Longer-term effects. The Donald Trump administration is only a few weeks into its presidency. We have no idea whether he’ll soften some travel policies or settle into a role as a more pedestrian U.S. president. If any of these things occur, foreign interest in U.S. travel may rebound.

In the meantime, evidence shows interest in foreign travel to the U.S. has declined — just a few weeks before Route 66 tourism season begins. A decline on Route 66 itself may not materialize. But Route 66 businesses should take steps to prepare if it does.

UPDATE 2/23/2017: Arthur Frommer of Frommers.com, founder of one of the best-known travel guides in the world, reports there is a “Trump Slump” in international travel to the United States, and “I know of no reputable travel publication to deny it.”

[T]he prestigious Travel Weekly magazine (as close to an “official” travel publication as they come) has set the decline in foreign tourism at 6.8%. And the fall-off is not limited to Muslim travelers, but also extends to all incoming foreign tourists. Apparently, an attack on one group of tourists is regarded as an assault on all. […]

A drop of that magnitude, if continued, would reduce the value of foreign travel within the U.S. by billions of dollars. And the number of jobs supported by foreign tourists and their expenditures in the United States—and thus lost—would easily exceed hundreds of thousands of workers in hotels, restaurants, transportation, stores, tour operations, travel agencies, and the like.

(Hat tip to Matador Network; official White House portrait of President Donald Trump by IPP Photo Archive via Flickr)

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25 thoughts on “Trump policies may reduce Route 66 tourism by foreign travelers

  1. Ron McCoy

    Very interesting observation! Hell, if he scares US almost daily with the CNN Breaking News warnings and FEAR, I’m sure the rest of the world will figure out somewhere else to go on vacation!

  2. Eric Hayman

    Where is the breakdown by religion of those countries showing reduced numbers flying? Also by race? Is the reduction because many non-Christians and non-Caucasians sense they would not be welcome in the US?

    How does the reduction compare with the after effects of 9/11? What were the figures then?

    I am 75 and have been aware of anti-American feelings by British and other European people all my life. Right from the “Overpaid, over-sexed and over here” resentment of US troops in the UK during WWII right up to now, with US bases still around the world, and attempts to make trade treaties that favour American companies trading with the UK, this anti-US attitude has not gone away.

    I have travelled in the US and have had both good and bad experiences. The bad usually at the hands of officials.

    I think people are asking themselves why they are visiting any foreign country. As for those likely to travel Route 66, I would think they would mostly be the well off, the middle aged or retired, and Caucasian. I doubt if the drop-off will be as great as the Hopper survey might suggest.

  3. Tonya Pike

    Eric & Tom:

    I have worked with foreign tourists for many years. It is not just the middle-aged or retired and Caucasian that come to travel Route 66. I’ve met a number of young couples, early 20’s to mid-30’s, over here on 66 as their honeymoon. I’ve met couples who came to see how safe Route 66 was to travel, who showed back up in a year or two with their kids in tow, kids who ranged from babes in arms to young adults, college bound. Route 66 seems to appeal to the young as well as the retired. Never think otherwise. And I’ve met everyone from ice truckers to the #2 man in the Norwegian government to people from India, Saudi Arabia, and Africa. So saying that the ones it will keep away are the ones we don’t want here anyway is totally out of line.

    I should have to tell you that most foreign 66ers come from places that are totally unlike the United States. Places where you can’t walk in a post office and mail almost anything home. Places where my 2-1/2″ bladed pocket knife scares them because pocket type knives over 2″ are illegal in their homeland. Places where it’s illegal for common citizens to have firearms. Places that still have curfews and laws about how many people can gather (and where) in public. WWII may have ended in 1945, but many foreign countries still deal with laws and fears from that time.

    Yes, I have dealt with anti-American resentment at times. Yet, most foreign people I’ve met will tell me at some point if their lives were different, they would immigrate to America. They are often stunned at our freedom, simple things like we can travel across 8 states and never show ID, or at the bounty found in especially our grocery stores. And that sentiment is usually followed by a remark that Americans do not understand how lucky they are to have the freedoms we have – which until now, I would have never argued with them about that.

    This tourist ban will keep away the good people, the decent people. People who travel but are always a bit ill at ease because they don’t always truly believe the freedoms we have here in the USA. People like myself who don’t want to risk getting caught up in something accidently away from home. The people that come over in a tourist group to see if they can drive the Route by themselves, then come back by themselves time and time again. The very good people that kept Route 66 afloat a few years ago when the US economy was so bad. That’s the people that it will keep away. Not those Trump is scared of. The ban or any limits that are imposed won’t scare the bad guys off. Never does. It just makes it a challenge for the bad guys to see if they can get here — and that is not who has been supporting Route 66 anyway.

  4. Wolfgang & Anja Werz

    So sorry, but we fear that we have to cancel our planned Route 66 tour in May. The reason are too little registrations and some cancellations with the statement “actual insecure political circumstances in the USA”… Greetings, Route 66 Germany

  5. Eric Hayman

    Re “actual insecure political circumstances in the USA”, I recall Americans cancelling trips to the UK because of events in eastern Europe. Are we seeing the biter bit?

    Trump is very heavy handed, and there is little logic in his choice of banning people from just seven countries with mainly Muslim populations. The problem is Islam itself and the Koran. As with most religions, most claimed adherents only pay lip service to their faiths. But no other religion demands that the whole world converts to it. That is the problem with Islam, and as we see almost daily there are Muslims willing to murder in the name of their religion.

    International human rights legislation was never designed to take into account such a religion, thus making banning a person because of his or her religion – despite the demands of that religion – goes totally against that legislation. Yet that is effectively what Trump is trying to do.

    And the reverberations are being felt all over the USA.

    1. Lane Stripe

      Islam’s only problem is that, unlike Christianity and Judaism, which underwent a period of Enlightenment with the rest of 18th-century Europe, Islam has had no such experience. Having said that, however, I see no problem with Islam or the Quran, per se. The problem is not religion as such, but rather religious EXTREMISM, which exists in nearly all religions, including American Christianity. The problem with trumpkin’s ban is that it will keep out decent, law-abiding people while terrorists will continue to find ways around barriers. A terrorist (of any nationality or religion), hell-bent on destruction is unlikely to be deterred by a travel ban. By analogy with gun control laws: a person who lives a life of crime doesn’t care how he obtained his gun, nor that his possessing it is illegal. Therefore, gun-control laws have little (if any) effect at deterring crime.

  6. Tom Morgan

    Why would someone from Germany worry about coming to the US because of a ban on 7 mostly muslim countries??? Germany has 99% of the freedoms we have and there are on restrictions on German citizens traveling here.

    1. Ron Warnick Post author

      I think Mr. Werz provided an answer. Plus the screw-ups with green-card-carrying immigrants who shouldn’t have been stopped during the ban undoubtedly had an effect.

    2. Eric Hayman

      As I said earlier, Americans cancelled trips to the UK after incidents thousands of miles away in eastern Europe. It is all a matter of perceptions.

    3. Wolfgang & Anja Werz

      Tom, read the post #11 of Klaas. that’s the way the way the most travellers are thinking today. It’s not alone the ban, it’s the general athmosphere in the USA since 11/08/2016.

      BTW, here is my statement to the actual ban of 7 islam countries:

      Terrorism existed at all times and under all circumstances. In addition to Christian terrorists such as George Habash who brutally murdered Jewish settlers, there were also “Zionist terror organizations” such as the “Irgun” Menachem Begins and Yitzchak Shamir, the terrorists themselves called terrorists. They fought with terror against British and Arabs for a free Israel – even against civilians.

      14 of the 25 organizations officially classified as terrorist by the EU have nothing to do with Islam. These “Marxist”, “anti-imperialist”, “anti-capitalist”, “Hindu” or “Sikh” terrorist organizations have left countless civilians on the conscience world-wide. In Uganda, the Christian “Lord’s Resistance Army” was murdered for decades. Their leader Joseph Kony wanted to build a Christian church on the basis of the Ten Commandments. In the public consciousness of the West, all these non-Muslim terrorist organizations do not play an important role.

      According to the European police department “Europol” there were 212 terror attacks in the countries of the European Union in 2012. Only six of them went back to “islamist” assassins. Not 200, not 100 – only six! Most of the attacks were carried out by militant independence movements, such as the Basque underground organization ETA.

      1. Eric Hayman

        Once again this is just making comparisons. It changes nothing about Islam and the present day worldwide mass murders by Muslims in the name of Islam.

        It is strange that in this list of “terror” organisations there is no mention of those that drove the indigenous peoples of North America off their lands, moved them to inhospitable reservations and killed many in the process. To the aboriginal people of what is now the USA the invaders from Europe three thousand miles away were terrorists. But they are part of history; today it is Muslims who are killing worldwide and need to be stopped.

  7. Laveeta F Tsavo

    This is a “B.S.” interpretation of manipulated “data.” If you continue to follow the path of politics, COUNT ME OUT. And I won’t be the only one. This ticks me off.

  8. van der Heide

    Remember one thing. The reason we go os the adventures of 66 and the welcome wordt of all the people we meet. I did 2 time 66 alone on a motor cycle. And had never a problem. Yes one time was scarry but it worked out.

    Now I think I do not go and many with me because of all the warnings we get from not save to not welcome.

    And yes I am a male of 56 and white and Dutch and not scarred for anything or anyone. But I do not feel a welcome word when the current president is talking.

  9. Cec Davis

    This is nothing more than fear-mongering. If a person or persons are determined to make Rt, 66 their vacation, then this “panic” will not be an obstacle. Making it political is ridiculous. The president wants “everyone” to enjoy America, just enjoy it legally.

  10. Eric Hayman

    Lane wrote ” I see no problem with Islam or the Quran, per se”. Please Lane, buy a copy of the Koran with an English translation and read the suras – verses – than say Islam should be the only religion in the world, and anyone who does not convert to Islam should be killed. The English translations may vary but the message is the same. For example:

    Sura 5:51 Don’t take Jews or Christians for friends. If you do, then Allah will consider you to be one of them.
    Suras 9:12-14-Fight the disbelievers! Allah is on your side; he will give you victory.
    Sura 9:5 Kill the nonbelievers wherever you find them.
    Sura 9:6-Those who submit and convert to Islam will be treated well. (Those who don’t submit will be killed. See previous verse.)
    Suras 8:12 I will strike terror into the hearts of the unbelievers so cut off their heads, cut off every fingertip of them.
    Sura 8:39 Make war on them until idolatry is no more and Allah’s religion reigns supreme

    It is these suras that were behind those Muslims who carried out 9/11, and countless other mass murders. Only when the Koran gets changed will these mass murders have a chance of stopping. And every Muslim believes the Koran is the unmediated word of there god Al Lah. And must never be changed.

  11. Eric Hayman

    The difference, Ron, is that – as far as I know – there are no Jews or Christians using the Jewish Old Testament or the Christian New Testament as the basis for killing non-Jews or non-Christians in the 21st century just because they are not Jews or Christians. I find this comparison with both books written centuries or more before Mohammed invented Islam – with the main purpose of his obtaining power over those who became non-Muslims – pointless. We are dealing with all three religions as they are now.

    1. Ron Warnick Post author

      If you don’t think there aren’t Jews killing Arabs and citing the Old Testament or Torah as justification, I have some beachfront property in Oklahoma to sell you. Zionist extremists are all over the place.

  12. Eric Hayman

    As I said, Ron, “as far as I know”. Whenever I read about “Jews killing Arabs” it is the Israeli army killing Palestinians. And I do not read of the Israeli army quoting the Bible or the Torah. I do not recall Jews killing non-Jews for religious reasons in, say, London or New York. What is the connection between Oklahoma beaches and Jews killing non-Jews?

    1. Wolfgang & Anja Werz

      Terrorism existed at all times and under all circumstances. In addition to Christian terrorists such as George Habash who brutally murdered Jewish settlers, there were also “Zionist terror organizations” such as the “Irgun” Menachem Begins and Yitzchak Shamir, the terrorists themselves called terrorists. They fought with terror against British and Arabs for a free Israel – even against civilians.

      14 of the 25 organizations officially classified as terrorist by the EU have nothing to do with Islam. These “Marxist”, “anti-imperialist”, “anti-capitalist”, “Hindu” or “Sikh” terrorist organizations have left countless civilians on the conscience world-wide. In Uganda, the Christian “Lord’s Resistance Army” was murdered for decades. Their leader Joseph Kony wanted to build a Christian church on the basis of the Ten Commandments. In the public consciousness of the West, all these non-Muslim terrorist organizations do not play an important role.

      According to the European police department “Europol” there were 212 terror attacks in the countries of the European Union in 2012. Only six of them went back to “islamist” assassins. Not 200, not 100 – only six! Most of the attacks were carried out by militant independence movements, such as the Basque underground organization ETA.

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