How Will Trump Affect Travel And Tourism?

trump-profileSince Donald Trump won the presidential election, there has been a lot of speculation as to how his policies will affect our country. Earlier this month, I started a series of blog posts on travel trends for 2017. Let’s review how this election could affect travel. Here are just four examples:

  • Travel boycotts to the U.S.: There could be boycotts of travelers to not come to the U.S. because of Trump winning the election. In a Travelzoo survey conducted in the U.K. before the election, one in five respondents said they would “definitely” not consider America as a travel destination if Mr. Trump was elected. If those respondents are typical of the nearly four million Brits that visit the U.S. each year, the numbers of visitors could drop by more than one million. This would be unfortunate as our country is truly worth visiting.
  • Americans traveling abroad. Americans will continue to travel. Travel Zoo also reports that of their U.S. members surveyed prior to the election, 61 percent stated they will travel just as much as they did in 2017 and 16 percent will travel even more if Donald Trump were elected. They are concerned though of how they will be treated. According to that survey, sixty-nine percent of those polled are worried that the election negatively impacts how U.S. citizens are perceived overseas. One in five consider safety and security a top concern when abroad. When I went to Australia last April, I was bombarded with questions about Mr. Trump and concerns about him being president. I can only imagine what Americans are dealing with now as they travel abroad. But it’s an opportunity for Americans to have thoughtful discussions with people they meet overseas on American politics and culture.
  • Trade: Trump wants to renegotiate trade agreements and limit travel of certain foreign nationals to increase homeland security. But as president he will have to work with congress on his policies. Even with a Republican controlled legislative branch, I believe the election rhetoric in a number of areas will be tempered. There is concern that the popular visa waiver program our industry has fought hard to implement and sustain will be weakened. I am hopeful that will not be the case. Trump is pro-business, so as a tourism industry we have to demonstrate how travel to the U.S. is vital to our economy.
  • Travel related infrastructure: According to U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow, “Mr. Trump demonstrated throughout his campaign that travel and infrastructure issues have his attention…. Trump has explicitly highlighted the challenges facing our nation’s airports and our aviation security system. He has voiced great enthusiasm for modernizing our roads, rails and airports with his promise to invest $500 billion in infrastructure reform.” Let’s not forget that the president elect is invested in the tourism and hospitality business, being a partner in numerous ventures including hotels, attractions, golf courses and even a winery.

So where does it leave the travel industry with a Trump Presidency? It’s too soon to tell. There could be challenges and there could be opportunities. I strive to be an optimist. Overall, I think travel and tourism will continue to be an economic and job creating engine on the local, national and international stage, regardless of who is president.

And for those international travelers who are thinking of boycotting a visit to the U.S. because of the future president, I close this with these thoughts penned by travel writer Chris Leadbeater this week:

“…the USA is no worse a travel destination today than it was yesterday, or than it will be in November 2020 or January 2025.

The Grand Canyon is as wide and magnificent as ever, the San Francisco skyline still an architectural wonder, the bars of Brooklyn unwaveringly chic, Route 66 still a meandering road-trip ribbon across the landscape, Colorado still a snowy oasis for skiers.

Travel really does broaden the mind – and the world could use some broadening today.”

Photo: Evan Vucci, Associated Press

Let’s Build Tourism for Washington State

14Here are a few facts about Washington that not everyone knows:

Tourism is the fourth-largest industry in our state.

Washington is the only state in the U.S. that does not have a robust tourism promotion program.

Washington’s share of tourism growth has been below the national average for the past four years. We’ve been losing share of the tourism pie to other states since our Legislature closed the state tourism office in 2011.

Today, we are poised to fire up this economic engine again. A bill co-sponsored by Rep. Norm Johnson of Yakima (House Bill 1938) plus companion Senate Bill 5916 are working their way through the State Legislature. These bills would allow our state to begin telling its story to travelers across the U.S., Canada and overseas.

When a visitor comes to Washington, we’re hosting a very special guest. Why? Because when out-of-state travelers spend money on a hotel room, in a restaurant, a shop, gas station or other businesses, they not only help that business, they pay taxes that benefit Washingtonians. In fact, visitor spending in Washington generates $400 in tax revenue for each Washington household: That’s a $400 reduction in annual household taxes for each of our families.

This is why every state — except Washington — has a sustainable funding mechanism to support a statewide tourism effort. Visitor spending and the taxes they pay while visiting are revenues we depend upon. Without visitors, our community would have less retail, fewer restaurants, fewer events and less money to support important community projects. Visitors expand our economy and improve our quality of life.

In 2013 (the latest year with economic data available), tourists spent $17.6 billion in Washington. They contributed $1.1 billion in state and local taxes. Those are big numbers, but a closer look shows they aren’t where they should be. Statewide tourism spending — and, therefore, tax revenue and job growth — slowed in 2013. This slower pace has been happening since 2011 when the state tourism office was eliminated. Meanwhile our surrounding states are seeing growth in visitor spending at far higher levels than we are.

Here in Yakima County, visitors spend $359 million annually. They support 3,560 jobs in locally owned small businesses. Tourists provide our community with more than $24 million in sales taxes that support services we all enjoy. While the Yakima Valley tourism industry has done well the last few years, imagine how much stronger our economy would be if more visitors came to Washington to spend their money. With a solid state effort, we can reach new markets and attract those visitors.

But change is coming. The Washington Tourism Alliance is pushing to re-establishing a statewide tourism marketing program through the legislation. This time it will be different from past state tourism efforts by not being part of state government. Washington tourism industry businesses will support the new nonprofit, private tourism organization. The funding will be generated by the tourism industry itself through assessments plus voluntary contributions.

If we want a robust tourism industry and the tax revenues visitors create for state and local services we need to pass this legislation. I am confident that by telling our story again, we’ll be able to increase travel to our state. As a result, visitor spending will increase, jobs will grow and tax revenues will expand. We’ll gain greater attention from businesses considering relocation and we’ll build our quality of life. It makes business sense to promote the great state of Washington to the world.

Tourism Product Development Is Going To The Dogs

relax2Earlier this week we announced that National Geographic Books had released The Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel which includes dog friendly businesses, attractions and outdoor areas in 75 pet-friendly cities and regions across the United States and Canada. The Yakima Valley is one of them.

The Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel was written by Kelly E. Carter, a New York Times best-selling author and pet travel expert for AOL’s Paw Nation and Elite Traveler. In each destination she highlights pet offerings including hotels, parks, pet shops and pet friendly businesses. Features of the book include walks to take with your dog, insider tips from local pet owners and sidebars detailing opportunities for people with a dog in tow.

Our office (Yakima Valley Tourism) approached Carter in early 2013 as the guidebook was being developed. The previous year we had created, an award winning program developed to help visitors traveling to our Valley with their dogs. In phone conversations with Ms. Carter I knew our region was going to be a good fit given all the work we had done on Wine Doggies. And our efforts paid off.  In addition to including the Wine Doggies website,  The Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel highlights numerous Yakima Valley walking and hiking trails, local pet services, dog friendly wineries and pet events.

Our Valley is one of only six communities in the Pacific Northwest featured in the book. That in itself is an honor given that towns and regions all over the Northwest are well suited for dog travel. In most cases just one or two destinations were selected for each state or province to be in the book. I don’t mean to boast but we worked hard to be included. If we had not developed and worked with our community partners on being more pet friendly I’m not sure we would have been in the running.

People traveling with their dogs is a niche’ market worth pursuing. According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spend $78 million was spent on travel that included their pet. Seattle and Portland, two prime in-bound markets for us, have more dogs per capita than children. In a national survey taken of more than 6,000 U.S. pet owners, most traveled at least once a year with their pets.

One of our primary goals with Wine Doggies is to cultivate a more dog-friendly destination. That effort involves our businesses, partners and communities working together to make that happen. Recognition of our efforts in a book of this stature helps us to reach that goal.

Governor Insless Signs Tourism Funding Bill

Governor Inslee and Tourism SHB 2229 supportersLast Thursday I had the pleasure to witness Governor Inslee sign Substitute House Bill 2229 that supports the development of funding for a long-term tourism marketing program. The tourism industry had worked hard on the legislation and it was great to be there when it was signed into law.

The bill recognizes a structure, level of funding and governance for a state tourism marketing program and directs state agencies to work with the Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) to support a mechanism for ongoing tourism marketing.

Why is this important? The fact is we are losing tourism market share. New research indicates that while tourism in Washington State improved slightly in 2013, the rate of growth has slowed while the rate of growth in the U.S. travel industry as a whole has accelerated.

According to the report, from 2012 to 2013 direct visitor spending in Washington State was up a meager 2.4%, after the previous year’s nearly 4% increase.  Visitation grew at a slower rate; the total number of overnight person trips of 37.2 million increased by just 2.0 %.  Other data show similar trends in comparing 2012 and 2013 growth rates for Washington State.

Meanwhile, at the national level there has been an acceleration of the growth in the U.S. travel industry. For example, visitor spending nationally was $900 billion in 2013, an increase of 3.6 % over 2012.

Let’s put this into dollars and jobs. We lagged the national average tourism spending growth by 1.2%. Does not sound like much, but it is. In 2013 visitors spent $17.6 billion in Washington state. If we had kept pace with the nation we would have seen an additional $211 million in visitor spending. According to the firm that did the study (Dean Runyan and Associates), for every $74,000 in visitor spending in Washington, one job is created. That means an additional 2,850 potential jobs were lost because we did not keep pace with national visitor spending growth. If we had a state tourism program in place we may have gained that spending and job growth.

The long-term funding framework in the legislation would raise funds from key sectors of the tourism industry including lodging, food service, transportation, attractions and entertainment, and tourism related retail. No state funds would be needed. SHB 2229 requires the WTA to submit a report to the legislature in December 2014 which will propose the collection method and governance structure to implement the funding proposal.

So now our real work begins as we bring the industry together, find solutions and get the process moving. I believe if we don’t act we will continue to lose market share, which means less visitor spending, less taxes they create that support our services and most importantly, less jobs for our residents.

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