It's been about eight months since President Donald Trump ascended to the highest office in American politics, and in many ways, the most powerful office in the world. And there have been many consequences of that, politically, socially, and now from the looks of things, economically too. That's because some new tourism numbers from early 2017 have been released, and they paint a somewhat telling picture ― is Donald Trump actually hurting U.S. tourism? Are more people from foreign countries choosing to stay away now that he sits in the Oval Office?
Of course, it's necessary to note that not all economic trends are referendums on the president. Just as Trump has repeatedly tried to take credit for trends in job growth that were going on for years during the Obama administration, sometimes looking at these things as a simple matter of cause, effect, and who gets the credit can be misleading.
That said, as The New York Times detailed on Wednesday, the drop in the tourism rate is very noticeable. According to the data, released by the U.S. Department of Commerce this week, nearly 700,000 fewer foreigners traveled to the U.S. in the first quarter of 2017, a drop of about 4.6 percent when compared to last year's numbers. This reportedly amounts to about $2.7 billion in lost spending in the U.S. economy, a very considerable sum of money.
As the Times notes, the tourism industry was down by a much greater percentage in 2008, in the months immediately following the swearing-in of then-President Barack Obama ― in fact, it was 14 percent lower than it had been in the early part of 2007.
There was an obvious reason for the drop, however, one that doesn't help explain what's going on in 2017. Namely, the U.S. and the world was still in the immediate aftermath of the 2007 global financial crisis, muddling through the first steps of recovery from one of the worst economic catastrophes in nearly 80 years. As such, it was no shock to see tourism drop. To the contrary, it would've been nothing short of shocking for foreigners to continue visiting the U.S. at the same rater, given those dire financial circumstances.
Right now, in 2017, there isn't such a clear answer. The Times report does note, however, that Gallup's tracking poll on America's popularity in the world does track downwards along with the reduction in tourism, tumbling from 64 percent of foreign responders having a positive view of America to just 49 percent at the beginning of Trump's first term.
That's not subtle, and it lends some weigh to the notion that tourism is suffering because of America's inflammatory, often xenophobic new president. Trump's own personal approval ratings worldwide are incredibly low, as well, which could help explain why fewer people wanted to come visit America and sample its cultural fare.
Make no mistake, this is precisely the sort of news the Trump administration ― perhaps first and foremost Trump himself ― will not appreciate. Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump billed himself as a business pro, a master salesman, and a consummate deal-maker, the sort of person who could restore America to the top of the world.
Thus far, however, those qualities have not exactly been in evidence, as he's failed to cut any major deals (except ones where he's basically accepted the other side's terms), and hasn't considerable improved the U.S. economy. If you add the rest of the world being so turned off by him that they stop showing up to visit to that mix, it would not be hard to imagine Trump being bothered by it all. Of course, to be entirely fair to him, it'll be worth seeing how the rest of the year's tourism figures look before passing judgment.