The Thing with Those Alternative Facts

By Alexandra Amling of Lieb Management, Germany on May 10th, 2017

Since Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States, the famous “German Angst” has reared its head in the tourism sector. Is Trump really making travel bad for Germans? Statements – and facts – tell two different stories.

Germans are often doubtful. So when someone begins imposing travel bans, we get scared. According to Olivier Jage, founder of travel analysts ForwardKeys, “Uncertainty rules, and Trump’s wording seems to deter visitors [to the United States].” According to Jage, worldwide booking numbers were 6.5 percent lower than during the same period last year. Western Europe estimates a decrease of 13.6 percent in booking.

When talking to German media representatives, these numbers become more real. Today, the United States is more likely to be found in the politics section of the newspaper rather than the travel pages. Travel journalists keep saying they want to wait to see how the travel ban situation evolves. We hear the same from friends: If traveling to America, why not go to Canada instead?

Torsten Schäfer from the German travel network Deutscher Reiseverband tries to find an explanation for these statistics. He believes that the decrease in bookings was caused by business travelers, not tourists, and calls those results merely snapshots. In addition, the strong dollar could also be keeping Germans away from travels to the United States. “For many Germans, a trip to the U.S. is still a lifelong dream,” he says. Yet Schäfer has to admit that he could also note a continuing decline in the last few weeks and months but can’t tell for sure if this is related to the political situation. “[We] don’t ask people what reason they travel to a selected destination. There are always cancellations because of various reasons. But the reversal rate we can note for USA travels is not exceptionally high.”

Tour operators continue to remain confident in America as a travel destination. TUI, Europe’s biggest tour operator and market leader in Germany, has not seen a decrease in bookings in either package holidays or individual trips. “Last year, we had double-digit growth. And 2017 is well underway,” said TUI speaker Mario Köpers. Köpers’ colleagues at TUI Group Europe don’t see any “Trump effect” either.

Travel company Thomas Cook Germany has even expanded its U.S. travel offerings due to strong demand. Per Ilian, product manager of Dertour, said at the start of 2017, “We’re currently experiencing the strongest booking weeks of the year.”

Nevertheless, America is alarmed. Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company, expressed concerns at the international tourism fair ITB in Berlin: “We are a bit worried about the political situation. We believe that this could affect travel decisions,” he said.

At the end of the day, Germans have to decide for themselves if the political situation is enough of a reason not to visit the U.S. Maybe we should relax, take a couple of deep breaths and wait to see how this situation evolves and if there will be any consequences for the U.S. travel industry.

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The views and opinions expressed in this  blog  are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency member of Travel Consul

By Alexandra Amling of Lieb Management, Germany on May 10th, 2017