The Eroding Demand for U.S. Destinations: Internationals Reluctantly Look Elsewhere

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Within months following the 2016 presidential election, the world’s view of the U.S. has changed along with its desirability as a tourist destination.

By Mark Okrant, NH Travel Guru

In earlier NH Travel Guru columns, we have explored tourism’s important contribution to the economy and quality of life in nations, states, and local areas. Were we living in Europe, where international visitation is often the predominant travel market, the news we are about to impart is very likely to be met with considerable concern. However, here in the U.S., overseas visitation is a relatively small, albeit important contributor to total travel business.

Newest information provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce indicates that there has been a 4.2 percent decrease in international visitors to this country
(-697,791) during the first quarter of 2017, compared to 2016. Visitation from European countries was down 10.1 percent, and travel from Mexico dipped by 7.1 percent. This represents a loss of $2.7 billion in international spending within the U.S. compared to a year ago.

What is responsible for this decrease in visitation? Certainly, one factor has been
the strength of the U.S. dollar relative to other global monetary units. However, the causes run deeper. As reported earlier, for many years, the U.S. has been a very desirable destination for international travelers. To many, there has been a mystique about this country, whose streets were rumored to be paved with gold. Large, modern, vibrant cities with all of their fascinating architectural and technological innovations, endless wide-open spaces, beautiful beaches, and—above all—hospitable Americans were irresistible temptations. Beside these factors, the U.S. was the home of Uncle Sam, whose long arms offered safety and security—serving as a bastion against the despots who threatened to snuff out global freedoms.

Mark Okrant, the NH Travel Guru

Within months following the 2016 presidential election, the world’s view of the U.S. has changed. While it is far too early to assign blame to the reverberations created by “the Wall,” travel bans, attacks upon the DREAM Act, and the undermining of our government’s traditional functionality, the numbers don’t lie. A June 2017 survey conducted in 37 nations around the globe showed that there has been a 23 percent drop in positive attitudes toward the U.S. since 2016. The figure is even more dramatic in Mexico, our nation’s second leading source of international visitors and a (surprising to some) valuable reservoir of visitor spending.

Globally, according to Destination Analysis, citizens of twelve nations (other than the U.S.) have been identified as offering the greatest proportional intent to travel internationally. These are: China (77% of residents), Brazil (67%), Mexico (60%), India (54%), South Korea (45%), Italy (33%), Australia (32%), France (29%), Canada (27%), Germany (26%), the UK (24%), and Japan (24%).

International travelers treasure the attributes that are available in abundance in this country (see above). However, when faced with risk—in the form of potential gun violence, other forms of domestic terror, and political unrest (once considered unthinkable)—they are finding other venues in what Roger Dow, President of the U.S. Travel Association, has termed “the ultra competitive international travel market.”

After forty years as an educator, researcher, and consultant, Mark Okrant joined to offer concise, informative insight into New Hampshire’s travel and tourism industry as a business, while showcasing the people and places you want to know. This guy’s really been around. And, he’s funny, too.

For more about Mark’s compelling tourism-based murder mystery series, visit

For information on current things to do in New Hampshire, click here.

Mark Okrant, NH Travel Guru is pictured with his latest book.


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