America’s status as a safe haven for travelers is quickly sinking. Why? Recent explosive events in the news are destroying our image as a vacation destination around the world.
A few weeks ago I wrote about fearmongering and how the effect of a political shift to isolationist policies will destroy the very profitable inbound tourism market.
Read that here:
In it, I called attention to society’s increasingly self-destructive nature; how we are experiencing an ever escalating number of newsworthy events that individually don’t mean much, but, in aggregate, are changing how we’re perceived around the world.
If we don’t seriously change our ways, we’re going to experience a drastic drop in the number of people visiting the United States.
When you watch international news, there’s a deluge of stories about racism, violent demonstrations, obscene amounts of gun violence, political uncertainty, financial decay and corruption. Now, if you hadn’t read the opening to this article would you ever dream I was talking about the United States?
Never. Ever. Never.
It’s easy to imagine that description could fit Haiti, or some African country run by a maniacal strongman. But it’s not. It’s here. It’s us.
Now imagine being part of that new wave of Chinese traveler. You know, the young, modernized and upwardly mobile members of the middle class? As urbanized city dwellers they watch the news, see what we’re seeing, and draw the same conclusions you have made in regard to your desire to travel to Haiti, or Afghanistan, for that matter.
The simply don’t put a distinction between Dallas or Detroit, Seattle or Sarasota. When something happens in a city, the world perceives it as happening throughout the entire country.
Sadly, it gets worse. Because of the violence surrounding demonstrations and the irrational and brutal attack against police in Dallas, three countries have issued warnings and cautions regarding travel to the United States.
The Bahamas, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates all put out warnings such as:
Here’s what Bharain Tweeted out:
Please be cautious of protests or crowded areas occurring around the US. Emergencies call the embassy at 202.342.1111 ext9 or 202.297.0537— Bahrain Embassy (@BahrainEmbDC) July 9, 2016
The fact that a Middle East nation is calling out the United States on its behavior, even a comparatively politically chill one like UAE, is abysmal. I am ashamed and embarrassed for the Unites States and all of us citizens.
And while I wish the answer was more videos of puppies, kittens and assorted baby animals doing vaguely human things in Facebook posts, it’s not.
As for that tourism drop, well, it’s already happening. According to the U.S. Travel Association's Travel Trends Index, inbound travel to the U.S. took a sizable downturn even before Britain voted to leave the European Union, crashing the value of the pound. International inbound travel is registering negative year-on-year growth in May and its likely to get worse.
We spend a lot of time talking about the future state of the hotel business. But we are about to lose control of our beloved business if the country doesn’t get its act together. We need to agree on what lens we want the world to view us through. And the hotel industry must take the lead in changing our image around the world.
Brand USA is doing a bang-up job promoting travel here, but with so much negative energy surrounding travel to America, it just may not be enough.
I still contend the United States of America is the greatest country in the world. Sadly, politicians and major media are complicit in telling the world a different story.
What would you do to foster change in how America behaves and perceived in the news? Let me know for a follow-up article. Drop me a line here at [email protected]. Or find me on Twitter @TravelingGlenn.
Glenn Haussman is editor-at-large for HOTEL MANAGEMENT. His views expressed are not necessarily those of HOTEL MANAGEMENT, its parent company Questex Media Group, and/or its subsidiaries.