Time and again in this space, when horrific world events have happened that have paralyzed us with fear, I have written impassioned pleas to never give in to the terror. Never let that keep you from traveling.
This week, I find myself consoling plenty of folks who have just survived a horrific domestic event that has left them paralyzed with fear. This traumatic experience happened at the ballot box and it has left many in our industry dumbfounded and fearful for their business.
I’m not here to make a political statement about Donald Trump. I am as shocked as so many of you out there. He has polarized the nation throughout this never-ending election cycle.
I certainly understand why his hateful words have many of my friends scared. I am stunned that our election process has eroded to the point that a candidate can make so many incendiary and vitriolic statements and still win an election. But it happened, and come January 20, Trump will be the 45th President of the United States.
Protesters are speaking out against the decision and the hatred that the President-Elect presented on the campaign trail. It’s encouraging to see the peaceful demonstrations, though I wonder where all the passion was on Tuesday. I hear many intelligent contemporaries blaming the media for deceiving them into thinking Hillary was gliding to a victory, and I think that’s an epic cop-out.
Where does this leave us in the travel industry? Many have said Trump’s exclusionary language toward so many minorities will discourage foreigners from traveling to the U.S. We’ve already seen studies saying travel from the UK to the US could drop by a million visitors a year. Royal Jordanian Airlines ran a “get there while you can” sale while domestic airlines are pushing Canada fares. Travel searches have spiked. The Canadian immigration website crashed from too much traffic on Election Day.
It’s all speculative and all the headlines are there to flame the fire. The media isn’t doing a whole lot of work to heal folks after the carnage that was the race to the White House.
Our team has done a ton of outreach over the past 72 hours and heard from so many leaders in all corners of the travel industry. Their emotions mirror much of what the country is expressing – shock, surprise, fear, anger. It’s all there. But behind personal feelings, many of the folks we talk to are home-based travel agents and small business owners.
Wearing that hat, there is a mumble of optimism. Not many want to come out in support of a guy that often spouted childish rhetoric at best and sexist, racist, elitist, dictator-esque statements at worst that we all expected would disqualify him as a real possibility to be President.
But here we are, and when we put aside all the show and drama that is Donald Trump, we have a businessman that could be a sympathetic advocate for the travel industry.
Here’s what we know from his campaign speeches.
- He has threatened to turn back the relaxed sanctions against Cuba, wiping out the travel progress we have made in opening the country to U.S. travelers. But many, including myself, feel that this was a pandering statement made to try to briefly court the Hispanic community in south Florida. Not a real agenda item for a new President.
- One item at the top of his wish list is improving the country’s travel infrastructure. Trump has specifically called out the country’s airports as being substandard and promised funding to improve the U.S. position in attracting new air travelers.
- Trump is clearly in the corner of the small business owner, promising to promote small business growth with tax protections and funding incentives to help spur new business creation.
He has been a leader in the travel industry, an example for many hoteliers as he has expanded his hotel empire.
His detractors do not want to hear this, and I understand that completely. But the reality for many of us in the travel industry is that a Trump presidency does not look so bad on paper.
Change is scary. We heard from many travel agents who said they thrived during the Clinton and Obama presidencies. Travel has rebounded strongly after so many tragedies have threatened all of our financial existences. We don’t want that progress to end.
Not truly knowing what kind of president to expect in Trump is creating high anxiety. But just as the travel industry has been at the forefront of driving employment and economic growth, we can also be leaders in helping ease the anxiety in this transition of power.
This could be disastrous. But there are many signs for travel professionals that behind the crazy, Trump may help us continue our industry’s growth. And maybe, just maybe, that theme carries far beyond the travel world. In surviving this grueling gauntlet en route to a historic win, Trump at least deserves the chance to prove that the fear is unfounded.
This isn’t about defending Trump the person. It’s about merely letting democracy play out. He has disappointed so many with words to this point, no doubt. But let’s judge him by his actions in the Oval Office before we lead the rush to the Canadian borders.