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Early Warning
Author: TriSec    Date: 06/23/2018 10:18:59

Good Morning.

We've hit the busy part of the season here at ol' Trolley Shop. A year ago, I was a newly-minted conductor, making my way through my first month giving tours and managing the crowds.

Being new to the industry, I had no "history" and just plowed along, trying to make sense of it all as we went through the ebb and flow of a typical tourism year in this city.

But now I have that history, and looking back things are not looking good so far this year.

Last year, we went virtually the entire season beating our passenger load projections. At one point, OTT Boston carried the largest number of passengers in a day ever recorded by any location in the company's history.

Those crowds have evaporated this year - we haven't beat last year's numbers once in more than a month. Some days, we've carried less than 50% of the load we had last year.

It's not just us - I talked to one of my friends at the Hyatt Hotel in Cambridge. He used the word 'scared'. According to him, it's very specific. No Europeans seem to be traveling to the United States this year.

I did some digging, and although the story I found is older, it does capture what we're all seeing out there in the hospitality business.

Travel to the U.S. has been on the decline ever since President Donald Trump took office, and new data from the Commerce Department shows the slump translates to a cost of $4.6 billion in lost spending and 40,000 jobs, according to an analysis by the U.S. Travel Association.

The latest data shows a 3.3 percent drop in travel spending and a 4 percent decline in inbound travel.

The downturn has also caused America to lose its spot as the world's second-most popular destination for foreign travel, ceding to Spain. (France is in first place).

International tourism to the U.S. began to wane after Trump took office, leading to a so-called "Trump slump."

Experts say that Trump's proposed travel bans, anti-immigration language, and heightened security measures have had a negative impact on the U.S.'s attraction for foreign visitors.

“It’s not a reach to say the rhetoric and policies of this administration are affecting sentiment around the world, creating antipathy toward the U.S. and affecting travel behavior,” Adam Sacks, the president of Tourism Economics, told The New York Times.

Tourism isn't a recession-proof industry; usually travel is the first thing most folks will cut out when times are hard. But I don't think that's the only indicator that something is happening. How much did it cost you to fill up your car the last time?

As I posted some time ago on the Book of Face - "why does it always seem that gas prices go up when a Republican is in office?" It's not actually rhetoric - check out this chart. (sorry, couldn't figure out how to get the image.)

The trending here is easy to see. Gas prices increased steadily during the Bush administration, but then tanked with everything else during the Great Recession. They rose again under Obama (looking more like normalization to me) but prices dropped steadily during his last two years. That trend abruptly reversed itself after the last election.

Now, I'm no economist, but I think these trends are actually more indicative of the overall health of the economy than any imagined 'stock market' numbers. Travel and gasoline are real and concrete, and they cost actual money to do. If people aren't traveling, and gas goes high, those trends could possibly expand into other areas of the economy.

I'm actually rather glad I have my healthcare skills in my back pocket...just in case.


2 comments (Latest Comment: 06/24/2018 01:13:17 by livingonli)
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