Trumping The Travel Industry: Travel Agents Weigh In

by Cheryl Rosen
Trumping The Travel Industry: Travel Agents Weigh In

Photo: KOMUnews

Updated 11/10/2016

So I posted the question, “What do you think a Trump presidency will mean to the travel industry?” on my Facebook page this morning—and the very first two replies seemed to bracket the discussion between the pros and the cons.

The first reply was from travel consultant Nina Sherman at Banner Travel Inc., who predicted that “as the stocks fall, so will our business. And travel to Cuba will be another hurdle.”

But next came the aptly named Alexandra Honey, co-owner of Jane Alexandra Concierge Travel, who noted that “there is always a change in the markets when we elect a new President—but I am optimistic about a Trump Presidency and travel. The people obviously were looking for change, just like they did when President Obama was elected President. I am optimistic with the people's decision because if they people feel like their voice has been heard, they will have a hope for our future and want to create memories with their families and loved ones, which I believe will enhance our industry.”

Then came evidence that some people see a business opportunity in every news event. Rob Stern of RobPlansYourTrip.com in Raleigh, NC, sent along a Twitter ad from Royal Jordanian Airlines suggesting that “Just in case he wins…Travel to the US while you are still allowed to.”

“I think there will be a surge in inbound travel from some international visitors who fear they will be unable or unwelcome to visit,” Stern said. “New York City, Disney World and Las Vegas could be among the destinations. It depends on the tone of the next couple of Donald Trump's speeches to see if there are more policy specifics, post-election. The worst enemy of travel is fear and uncertainty, and we now have both. “

Then came the comedians: "With all the celebrities and travel writers vowing to leave the USA with Trump's election, there should be a travel boom," quipped travel blogger Jerome Shaw.

But indeed, many industry insiders were feeling cautious this morning. “Our industry is built on freedom through movement, knowledge and understanding. President-elect Trump has repeatedly degraded the importance of these fundamentals. It is our duty as travel ambassadors to continue to push toward global citizenship no matter the barriers—literal or physical. The world needs travel more than ever,” said Travel Professionals International vice president Tim Morgan in Canada.

Still, many were hopeful of good things to come in an industry that has bounced back again and again—and a nation that after all chose Trump as its new leader.

Said Jona Greenstret Willis, a travel agent at AAA: “I am hopeful that with a decision made, the uncertainty and hesitation may clear. Another thought, we may get a rush of winter travel before Trump is sworn in?”

“It will be fine,” agreed Becki Young Toth at Travelbugs LLC. “Let's face it, we've weathered terrorist attacks (including one that halted air traffic around the world), acts of God, crashing stock markets, and about 100 other ‘upsets’.....and prevailed.”

And Cruise Planners franchise owner Chuck Flagg quoted Thomas Jefferson in the Broadway show about another unexpected political winner, Alexander Hamilton:"There is no more status quo. But the sun comes up and the world still spins."

Indeed, said David Negron, “travel provides a 'mental escape' for many. When l handled Latin American sales for RCCL many of these politic issues were far worse than ours—and sales would be above goals due to the fact that people needed to escape. It’s up to travel professionals to maintain a positive attitude regardless of their views. People will travel!"

Even in difficult times, "travel agents have more power than they think to convince sales," Negron noted, "providing they act/speak with knowledge of products/brands. Ask for the business...and never let a client leave or hang up without a means of follow-up."

Agreed Gail Hummel at Burkhalter Travel, Madison WI, "Travel is more important now than ever. Engaging with other cultures enriches our own. Experience with destinations that offer centuries of history is as important as bolstering a Third World nation's economy by spending time there. A global movement of interconnectedness is informed by travel. Now is not the time to stop being ambassadors for our great nation."

International perspective

Overseas, though, the reaction was more cautious.

“I know from my recent travels that the citizens of Canada, Mexico and Europe have questioned how and why Americans would support a Trump presidency. They truly do not understand it. This win tarnishes our world reputation because it does not reflect our traditional American values that include embracing and accepting all people,” said New York City NACTA co-chapter director Camille Pepe Sperrazza of TheWorldAwaitsTravel.com in Brooklyn. “And economics is another factor. Prior to the election results, the stock market was doing fabulous. People felt confident about their futures, and secure in spending money on vacations. Now there is uncertainty."

The fact that the Canadian immigration web site crashed as it became evident that Trump was headed for a win indicates that many Americans are seriously considering a move north. This bodes well for the Canadian tourism industry as increased interested will probably create a spike in travel to my home country," said Anne Dimon, CEO of Travel to Wellness. "As for travel to Mexico, his election has caused the peso to drop, so Mexico will also see a surge in traffic. Maybe not from the U.S. but certainly from Canada, as Mexico has been a long-time favorite destination for Canadian Snowbirds. But it may become more difficult for foreigners to get U.S. travel visas and certainly immigration papers, so we will probably see a dip in travel to the United States."

And in Ottawa, the ever-cheerful Norman Payne noted that "the travel industry is so robust that no single person can do it much harm. Travel agents like me sold $16.8 billion in Ontario alone last year, and I'm optimistic that success will continue."

In Ireland, Ginger Aarons, director of Time Travel Tours, is “hoping for the best” but concerned “that we will see a decline in travel based on fear levels.  I see some trade agreements going and in that raising prices to travel abroad with tighter visa regulations and some visas completely revoked. In Ireland we are worried about our preclearance not being allowed at Shannon and Dublin airports. I would say that the list will get longer for this type of thing given his stance on immigration."

In Italy, travel blogger Simone di Santi said, "If his policies help Americans financially they will have more disposable money to travel or travel more. The policies of the last several years damaged the middle class that many travel/tourism companies in Italy, for example, depended on. Even the mere hope of prosperity might inspire more to travel and spend more. I am very optimistic and so are many local companies I've spoken to. They welcome an American president who can help bring back the shrinking middle class and make Americans prosperous again."

But perhaps Trafalgar CEO Paul Wiseman summed it up best. "We are delighted that the election is now behind us because uncertainty is definitely the worst," he said. "It is too early to tell what effect the nomination will have but we remain hopeful for positive growth in our businesses.” 

Taking a deep breath

Interestingly, as the day went on the comments seemed to become more inclusive, as members of what have been our three political persuasions of late--the Democrats, the traditional Republicans and the Trump followers--began to look ahead to the future all Americans will be building together.

"Regardless of how you feel about last night's election, when you step back and consider the grand course of events that our nation has been blessed with over the years, we must pause to be thankful. Divisiveness has threatened to tear our nation apart and I pray that we might take each other by the hand and together work toward our common goals," said David A. Porter, owner of The Roaming Boomers Travel Services.

At travel research and marketing firm MMGY Global, president and CEO Clayton Reid said, "President-elect Donald Trump is a major player in the travel industry and understands the issues pertaining to travel and tourism professionals. In terms of policy, immigration policy is the issue to pay the most attention to and MMGY Global will be monitoring how this affects the U.S. domestically and internationally. Overall, we expect Trump's administration to support Brand USA's initiatives."

And at Crystal Cruises, CEO and president Edie Rodriguez also noted that President-elect Trump is, after all, a member of the travel industry, with long roots and many friends here. 

"I've had the pleasure of knowing and working with him for more than 15 years; I had my wedding at [Trump's private club] Mar-a-Lago and I've always had a great deal of respect for his business abilities, just as I do for the democratic process in America," she said. "I feel very bullish that now that the rigors of the campaign are behind us he will act in a presidential manner, and I believe his acceptance speech was a true testament to his desire to do that. I'm very bullish on his ability to help the cruise industry and the entire travel industry on such issues as travel to Cuba and independent contractor agreements and FAA reauthorization. And I think he will be a friend to the travel industry."

MORE COMMENTS FROM THE INDUSTRY:

US Travel Association president Roger Dow: "I congratulate President-elect Trump on behalf of the U.S. travel and tourism community, and am confident that he will be a valuable ally in advancing some of our industry's key priorities," said Dow. "Mr. Trump demonstrated throughout his campaign that travel and infrastructure issues have his attention, and we stand ready to advise his administration on achieving his stated aims in these areas. We are encouraged that Mr. Trump's extensive business and hospitality background—not to mention that travel accounts for 10 percent of all U.S. exports and creates jobs in every single congressional district—will make him a ready and receptive ear for our agenda.

"Mr. Trump has explicitly highlighted the challenges facing our nation's airports and our aviation security system on his path to the White House. He has voiced great enthusiasm for modernizing our roads, rails and airports with his promise to invest $500 billion in infrastructure reform.

Thanks to everyone who contributed their thoughts! There are many more comments -- we will keep updating the story throughout the day and/or please visit my Facebook or LinkedIn pages to see more.

 

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