Travel to US down 16% since Trump took office


Social-media company Foursquare has crunched the data generated by its 50 million active monthly users and determined that America’s share of the international tourism market has fallen sharply since October.

According to data published on the company’s blog, visits by foreigners to the U.S. started to decline in October, when they fell by 6% year-over-year. The decline has continued through March 2017, the latest month for which Foursquare has data, when visits declined by an astounding 16%.

One quick point of clarification: These data don’t measure the absolute number of visitors to the U.S., but rather America’s “market share” – its popularity as a destination for travelers relative to the rest of the world.

Official data published by the National Travel and Tourism Office also suggest that the number of foreign visitors to the U.S. declined last year from the record highs reached in 2015, but the NTTO has only supplied data through August.

Foursquare categorized each traveler as either “business” or “leisure” depending on the types of locations they visited. By breaking down the totals for each subgroup, Foursquare found that leisure travel has experienced the largest decline, having fallen nearly 20% in March on a year-over-year basis, while business travel during the same period was essentially flat.

The data also suggest that travelers from the Middle East and South America are avoiding the U.S. in larger numbers than are travelers from Europe and Asia, which brings us to the obvious implications of this study: Is the dip in tourism Trump’s fault?

In the post, Foursquare contends that the dollar’s rise against the euro over the past two quarters was probably too small to have such an outsize impact on the tourism figures. Therefore, it’s more likely that Trump’s “heated campaign rhetoric” is the primary reason for the decline in tourism.

But it’s worth remembering that foreign visitors – especially leisure travelers – typically plan their trips several quarters – if not several years – in advance. Therefore, measuring the dollar’s performance over the past two quarters probably isn’t sufficient.

Looking back to the second half of 2014, the ICE Dollar index, which measures the dollar’s strength against a basket of rivals like the euro, increased by nearly 25% after the Federal Reserve revealed that it would soon begin raising interest rates.

In the years that followed the financial crisis, the dollar was relatively cheap compared with its main rivals (i.e. the euro). Now it’s not. So, it should come as no surprise that international visits to the U.S. are falling.