Russia-US flight searches surge 88% post Donald Trump Inauguration

At least 94 nations saw a general decline in visitor interest in the US, but one country bucked the trend

Rachael Revesz
New York
Monday 13 February 2017 16:54 GMT
Russia was the only country to buck the trend of falling visitor interest
Russia was the only country to buck the trend of falling visitor interest (AP)

US tourism is suffering in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, according to a new study, but there is one notable exception.

Travellers from at least 94 countries are reconsidering visiting the "land of the free" after Mr Trump’s Inauguration, found digital travel agency Hopper.

The report showed a 17 per cent decline in people's interest to fly to the US in a period spanning the three weeks before the Inauguration to two weeks afterwards, based on weekly averages of billions of global flight searches.

One country that did not conform to the general trend was Russia, Hopper found.

Flight searches from Russia to the US increased 88 per cent over the stated period.

Mr Trump has come under fire for praising Russian President Vladimir Putin as a "great leader" and his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, reportedly discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador before they were implemented, despite insisting previously that he had not.

"A lot of this stems from the fact that there just seems to be charge and accusation after charge and accusation that somehow President Trump and Vladimir Putin are BFFs. That is not true," Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President, told CNN at the weekend.

Despite support from Russia, the US could still be in for a travel shock.

In 2016 during the same period, global flight searches to the US fell just 1.8 per cent, suggesting a bigger deterrent for most other countries than the usuals seasonal downturn.

One likely theory is the President’s executive order to temporarily bar nearly all travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries in the name of fighting terrorism, despite no American having been killed in an attack on US soil since 2001 by anyone from those seven nations.

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The falling number of flight searches could spell bad news for the likes of museums, hotels and restaurants, as the number of people searching and booking flights is one of the first indicators of a healthy tourist industry.

Hopper found that San Francisco is bound to miss out most. Its airport saw a decline in international interest of just under a third - 33 per cent - this year. A total of eight major airports saw a downturn of a fifth or more. Other cities to be hit hard were Baltimore (23 per cent), Las Vegas (23 per cent), Los Angeles (22 per cent) and Dallas (21 per cent).

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New York’s JFK Airport, a very common flight path from London and other major travelling hubs, saw a decline of 12 per cent.

Hopper said it had little data for Somalia, Syria and Libya, and no data for Yemen - four countries affected by the travel ban - but for the other three, Iraq, Iran and Sudan, travel searches were down 33 per cent. The travel ban was halted temporarily by a federal court judge in Washington, eight days after the executive order was signed. Mr Trump warned the case could end up in the Supreme Court.

On Mr Trump’s campaign website, it said his vision was to "negotiate fair trade deals that create American jobs, increase American wages, and reduce America's trade deficit".

But the US’s trade deficit of $502 billion could also be hurt by the visitor decline, as tourism is calculated as an export.

The trade deficit is determined by calculating the difference between a nation’s imports and exports.

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