This could be a first: Vacationers are now considering traveling to Canada rather than the United States for their holidays.
It seems President Donald Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric, travel ban and electronics ban may have taken the U.S. off the list of the most-favored tourist destinations in the world.
Travel experts are saying the POTUS’ stringent immigration policies have waned foreign interest in vacations in the U.S. — especially for affluent Mexicans.
“We have Twitter wars with our president and former president of Mexico…. There is lots of speculation in the media about a trade war with Mexico,” said Douglas Quimby of Phocuswright, a travel research firm. “If that happens, what kind of impact does that have on millions of middle-class Mexicans looking to take a trip?”
Mexicans have become increasingly resentful of the U.S. ever since the primary elections when then-candidate Trump claimed Mexicans were drug pushers and rapists. There have been reports of Mexicans beating Trump shaped piñatas, putting fire to Trump shaped effigies and staging protests against the U.S.-Mexico border wall in Mexico.
Besides pushing for the wall and setting up an immigrant deportation force, he also wants to renegotiate the North America Free Trade Agreement, the 1994 treaty that created a closer trading relationship among U.S., Mexico and Canada.
“I don’t want to go to a country that does not accept the people from my country,” said Mexico City plastic surgeon Rodrigo Munoz when he was deciding where to go for a winter ski vacation.
Meanwhile, the Canadian government has been promoting the idea of a closer relationship with Mexico even before Trump came out as a strong candidate. The country has seen a surge in tourism — an increase of 16 percent — since its Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced visa-free travels for Mexicans in June 2016.
“Right now, my mind really is not as geared toward traveling to the United States,” said Gabriel Leal, a public relations professional in Mexico City. “Many friends lately have been making the decision to cancel trips to the United States and go to Whistler more and more is becoming a popular destination.”
“I can freely say that I am from Mexico and people are welcoming and people here say great things about my culture and my country,” said Pepe Barajas, who owns restaurants and a cleaning service in Whistler ski resort. “I wouldn’t be able to say that in the United States. They look down at you and you don’t feel welcome.”
The number of visitors to Canada from Mexico increased 72 percent just in December, from 18,095 in December 2015 to 30,268 in December 2016.
At the same time, ForwardKeys, a travel expert firm, said the bookings to U.S. have been down 9 percent despite the dollar weakening against the U.S. peso which usually drives up Mexican tourism.
This could mean bad news for America, since Mexico is the second-largest U.S.-bound tourism market that produced 18.4 million visits in 2015 alone. Experts predict the country will be getting 7 percent less trips from Mexico resulting in a $1.6 billion loss in “direct economic spending by 2018,” according to Tourism Economics.
Even though U.S. is still the country of choice for millions of tourists, the travel industry is worried about the long-term impact of Trump’s prejudiced messaging — especially since 11 percent of jobs in the country are dependent on the tourism sector.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Lucas Jackson