PHOTO: The Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. (photo via Flickr/Pedro Szekely)
President Donald Trump's proposed travel ban has led many to project a decline in international tourism to the U.S. However, a new report issued Thursday shows that Trump's blocked executive order is just one potential pitfall for the U.S.'s travel and tourism industries moving forward.
According to the World Economic Forum's 2017 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, the U.S. now ranks as the sixth-most tourist-friendly destination in the world, falling two spots from 2015.
The U.S. was surpassed by Japan and the U.K. in this year's rankings. Spain, France and Germany remain the top three most desirable destinations from two years ago, while Australia, Italy, Canada and Switzerland round out the top 10 for 2017.
The report doesn't reflect Trump's time in office, though, and instead highlights other areas where the U.S. has room for improvement.
Among the 14 categories analyzed, the U.S. fared well in air transportation, tourist infrastructure and access to natural and cultural resources. However, the report points to security concerns, deteriorating natural resources and ground infrastructure in need of investment as potential hurdles.
"Investing in more modern ground infrastructure and improving environmental protection are, therefore, key to maximizing the development outcomes of the T&T sector in the United States," the report states.
Nonetheless, the impact of those issues is likely to be overshadowed by the Trump effect.
Some tourism officials have projected Trump's policies to result in international visitors to the U.S. spending as much as $18 billion less over the next two years and last month, Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told the Financial Times that the industry is in for "a turbulent year amid falling international interest in visiting the country."
Trump's revised executive order temporarily banning foreign nationals from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days has been blocked in a federal court. But it seems the uncertainty surrounding the ban has been enough to deter some international travelers.
According to a recent survey conducted by tourism marketing agency Brand USA of travelers from 11 countries shows that more international travelers now say they are less likely to visit the U.S. in the next 12 months due to the changing political climate compared to late last year before Trump took office.
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Still, like most other countries analyzed by the World Economic Forum, the U.S. stands to benefit from addressing the issues that were present long before Trump became president, including upgrading the nation's infrastructure, protecting natural resources and working to prioritize the travel and tourism sector.
The bigger challenge could be enhancing security without discouraging travel to the U.S. According to Thursday's report, the U.S. would be wise to take a page out of Australia's playbook.
"Right now the key element is to combine ease of access with security," the report's co-author Roberto Crotti told USA Today. "Many countries have managed to do so using smart visa policy, so they didn’t need to necessarily restrict access because of security."