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Jan 26, 2017

An Optimist Looks Ahead to the Trump Administration

Hear me out: The Trump administration presents some promising opportunities for the travel industry, as well as the U.S. economy.

Many are greeting the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States with a mix of emotions. Given the surprise nature of his win, a certain amount of restiveness is understandable.

I’m an optimist, though, and I have a few solid reasons to believe that economic good is forthcoming from the Trump administration. Here are some factors that have contributed to my optimism.

A White House Leader Who Understands the Travel Sector

Even before the election results came in, I predicted that travel would win, no matter what. But the new president’s business and hospitality background gives me added confidence that the new administration will vigorously support travel-friendly policies—and when travel thrives, so does every stratum of the U.S. economy. The U.S. is the largest exporter of global long-haul travel—meaning, international travelers spend more in the U.S. than anywhere else.  

Staying in that top spot is crucial for the health of economies in every region of the country, and to do so, we must increase the number of international flights operating in and out of the U.S. Following the precedent set by the outgoing administration, such as the recent decision to permit Norwegian Air International to expand service to the U.S., it would not just be a good political move—it would, as I’m sure President Trump understands, make good business sense.

An Immediate ‘Trump Bump’ for Travel?

Each month, the U.S. Travel Association releases its Travel Trends Index (TTI) report, which provides a comprehensive look at both the immediate present and future of travel demand to and within the U.S. The most recent TTI—the first to contain post-election data—does not signal economic upheaval, or that visitors avoided the U.S. en masse immediately after the election.

Quite the opposite, in fact: All travel sectors grew at rates significantly above their six-month moving average in the immediate aftermath of the November election, even considering the usual holiday travel uptick—and the projected growth outlook for all sectors has gone up as well. This improvement, particularly in business travel, mirrors the strong stock market performance of late and a rosier business outlook in the immediate term.

My colleagues and I have been optimistic about the prospects for travel under the new administration—but frankly, we were prepared for a wary reaction from the travel market in the short term, particularly among international travelers. So far, that downturn has not materialized. Domestic business travel in particular performed unexpectedly well, rebounding after a long period of stagnation.

Infrastructure, Infrastructure, Infrastructure

Throughout his campaign, candidate Trump gave a lot of attention to infrastructure issues, promising major investment in our nation’s roads, rails and airports, which he recognizes are in dire need of repair. The incoming president has a wide array of options for tackling airport modernization or surface transportation fixes, and my organization stands ready to advise the administration and Congress on the best approaches to meet growing travel demand.

To this end, many of President Trump’s cabinet selections have the support of the travel community, including Elaine Chao, Gen. John Kelly, Wilbur Ross and Rex Tillerson.

On a more philosophical note, sustained, focused funding for infrastructure improvements will give us something our country needs right now: greater connection to each other and to the world.

Travel-friendly policies are vital to our nation’s continued economic growth and leadership on the world stage—and those priorities have no party affiliation. I believe that President Trump feels the same way and will act accordingly.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Regarding the recent executive order on visa restrictions: I have long emphasized that without security, there can be no travel. I take the Trump administration at its word that these executive orders are temporary and were done in order to conduct a thorough national security review. Needless to say, I hope that these reviews are concluded quickly so that legitimate travel is not needlessly impeded. It is critical that the administration’s policies strike the right balance between national security and facilitating travel for legitimate visitors to the U.S.

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