What President Donald Trump Means for Travel

I don’t know what a Trump administration will do on very many policy areas. Unlike a traditional candidate, there isn’t the litany of well-crafted proposals published and ready to hand to a stable of clear choices to lead cabinet agencies. And of course we have campaign rhetoric to go off of, but politicians aren’t known for keeping promises.

I think most anyone who knows what a Trump administration will be like is reading in their own preferences or fears rather than making good predictions although this seems as good a guess as any.

In the travel space though there are some things we can expect.

Backing Off of Free Trade and Free Movement of People Isn’t Good for Travel

A key theme in the presidential campaign was restricting the free flow of goods and people. Candidate Trump said over and over that he wanted to renegotiate trade deals especially with China and Mexico, and limit free trade agreements. He wanted to build a wall with Mexico and do greater screening of people entering the U.S. Travel doesn’t benefit from backing off of free trade and increasing restrictions on immigration.

For now the rest of the world sees the U.S. as less open to tourism and immigration whether that is true or not. That’s not good for airlines and hotels, but in the short term it could mean lower airfare. (Ironically though Trump Hotels market to bring Middle Eastern tourists to the US…).

Protectionism for US Airlines Against Choice and Low Prices from Gulf Airlines

Trump’s protectionism could mean a renewed fight over big Gulf carrier access to US markets. Delta’s CEO predicted a Trump win would be good for their attempt to limit consumer choice and raise fares in this regard.

The lobbying group created to represent Delta, American, and United and argue for protectionism says they’re excited by a new Trump administration.

Backed by Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines, the coalition says the alleged subsidies to the Gulf airlines place 300,000 US aviation jobs in peril. “We are optimistic that the Trump administration will stand up to the UAE and Qatar, enforce our trade agreements and fight for American jobs,” says a spokesman for the Partnership for Fair and Open Skies.

Emirates A380 Business Class Bar

Good for Trump’s Travel Businesses

Trump’s hotels probably benefit. While continued polarization will drive some people away from Trump properties, and the electoral campaign itself may have been a negative, there’s also a halo effect of the Presidency.

The new hotel brand they were launching had been avoiding using the Trump name. That could change.

Trump also probably now can get the FAA to alter aircraft routings to avoid Mar-a-Lago as he’s sued for in the past. They might also have to bring back the navigation waypoints that used to be named for him.

Ivanka Trump’s status as a travel pundit has to rise, just don’t take her advice on scoring premium cabin upgrades.

Lots of Government Infrastructure Projects, More Disruption Like LaGuardia

There’s talk of increased increased investment in infrastructure. He may have been elected as a Republican but here he sounds like a Democrat. There may be more spending on airports, although that means things getting worse (see: LaGuardia) before they get better, if they do get better many years into the future.

Uncertainty Could Slow Investment in Cuba Travel

There’s been a significant increase in executive power over the past 15 years in the U.S. Actions that used to be thought required congressional legislation have been permitted to be taken by a President unilaterally. But unilateral Presidential action can be undone by a future President unilaterally, constrained only by the limits of public opinion. And as polarized as that opinion appears to be, it will be interesting to see how constraining it is on our next President.

DOT Approved Havana Service

The opening of US travel to Cuba was done based on the President’s authority. It’s unclear whether a Trump administration would roll that back, although I think that would be difficult to do. Nonetheless, uncertainty in this area could at a minimum slow investment. That one Starwood hotel ain’t gonna do it. More generally, uncertainty forestalls investment.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Taking a page from lucky and stirring the pot for click baits.

    Two fingers up Americas pussy.

    Ps: none of these words are gross. They have been used by the President elect himself.

  2. Out of the 3 US legacy airlines, there’s only 1 based out of a blue state in this election. I’m voting with my wallet.

  3. “A key theme in the presidential campaign was restricting the free flow of goods and people. Candidate Trump said over and over that he wanted to renegotiate trade deals especially with China and Mexico, and limit free trade agreements. He wanted to build a wall with Mexico and do greater screening of people entering the U.S. Travel doesn’t benefit from backing off of free trade and increasing restrictions on immigration.”.

    Oh come on, Trump never said he wanted to end international trade. He said he wanted to renegotiate unfair trade deals. Such as China, which can pretty much send over whatever it chooses, but in turn restricts what US companies can sell there. And often requires US companies wanting to build local factories to give a substantial minority stake to a Chinese “partner”.

    And he certainly didn’t say he doesn’t want any tourists coming to the US. The people who walk over the border from Mexico are not tourists. Nor the refugees from Syria about whom we know virtually nothing, leaving us no way to tell who is fleeing a war zone, and who wants to turn the US into one. Neither of those groups are liable to be staying in a Hyatt anytime soon. 😉

    You might think Trump is going to be terrible for the US economy, but investors don’t seem to think so. Today, two days after the election, the Dow just ended on a record high ! And the S/P is quite close to a 5 year high. So if you really think Trump is going to be a global disaster, this would be an excellent time to short one or both of those indexes.

  4. @Gary,

    Please read Summer Hull post on “What I Told My Six Year Old Daughter About President Trump”. You definitely need it.

  5. Trump used that word in a private conversation, that was taped without his knowledge, 11 years ago. And he has apologized for saying it. You just used it on a Travel Blog with no justification whatsoever. Not in the same category at all.

  6. For everyone who is asking themselves ‘how did this terrible person get elected?’, I recommend you watch President-Elect Trump’s Victory speech on YouTube. It’s gracious, humble, gentle, and inclusive. If you haven’t seen it, you should, if only for your own sanity. 😉

  7. Delta, AA & UA can stick it where the sun don’t shine. I’m sick and tired of them trying to limit competition from ME carriers. If the U.S. carriers offered decent service they wouldn’t have to worry about foreign competition. I just flew AA in first class from LAX to Hong Kong and it was lousy. I didn’t use miles I paid CASH for my ticket. The food was appalling in both directions and the seat on the 777-300 was nothing to get excited about. This never would have happened on Cathay or Singapore. Next time I pay for my ticket it won’t be on AA. I was probably one of the few people who did pay. Most people in AA FC are employees flying for next to nothing and I can understand why.

  8. @Robert Hanson. So it was a PRIVATE conversation where our president-elect admitted grabbing women’s pussies. Guess that makes it OK. And recorded without his knowledge! Guess Trump is the real victim.

  9. Meh – Trump has done wonders already in reducing the price of travelling and vacationing in Mexico. With the drop in the Peso, college students ought to be celebrating cheap spring break trips and Mexican beer vs skipping class and protesting in the streets.

  10. Actually Aloha Dave is right but even worse, Trump’s victory is making the Mexican peso so cheap that MORE jobs will now go to Mexico because it’s now even cheaper to produce goods there. Good luck getting that reversed. It looks like Mexico will get the last laugh!

  11. Gary, you should apply for the open DNC job. “Newsflash : Trump policies to be tough on Mexican and ISIS tourists”.

  12. Wow lots of off topic comments.
    I think that programs like global entry, Nexus, etc will be more valuable if border security is improved.
    I also think that for American travelers the currency markets will be in our favor.
    I think that in some countries it will be more dangerous for American tourist.

  13. Lol Can I say it now? You’re such an AHO…… You don’t realize that nobody gives a crap that your biggest development in the Travel biz is….. drum roll please….

    Increased traffic to Cuba.

    Yes I feel for you. ( NOT AT ALL) Keep running your mouths Celebrity Poker types. There is no longer separate tables. One for mocking, sound reverberating from your own internal walls, “Leaders in Thought” Internet or traditional Celebs…. lol….

    And one for the rest of us. You all have to play the same game.

    And you don’t get to snivel and snark at that family next to you with a kid their trying to raise to teach that “No sweetheart. That man or woman in a suit is not a total douche bag”

  14. Oh what would be “ON TOPIC”? More of your Sound Tunnel Reverberations about literally nothing that has anything to do with the real world?

    Yes keep believing. Thanks for the Attitude.

  15. Oh and Mark is now an International Currency trader employing 30,000 in the US.

    Not a card carrying member of the D Brigade.

  16. Respect Sir, Respect. (You know we still like you Gary) New Ballgame. You know this. You’re a trooper in the End.

  17. It’s bad enough that T@#$P will be president, but it’s not yet. He is President elect until next year.

  18. I’m sure all the non politicians in the new Trump administration like Newt Gingrich, Rudy Guiliani, Chris Christie, John Bolton, etc will be a breath of fresh air in Washington and a complete draining of the swamp. ROFL. The good thing is air travel should become less expensive because either people won’t be able to afford to travel or they’ll be too scared to travel.

  19. The biggest difference, as someone else pointed out, is that I will now have to claim to be Canadian when I visit any normal country

    And that if anyone tells me that they voted for Trump, I’ll have to leave the room.

  20. @ Robert Hanson and other tRump sycophants

    Please don’t travel to Australia. You views are not in keeping with our local values.

    At 5 to 10 times the murder rate of other civilised nations one has seriously to question why you would be granted a travel visa – you are a significant security risk.

  21. @platy, Are you the official spokesperson for Australia or do you represent Australia government and its people. Learn and accept everyone has their own opinion. You belong to same category of people who close their eyes and imagine the whole world is dark.

    P.S., This is simply my opinion does not represent any sector or people or government

  22. @ BlackHIll

    That is my personal opinion. The reality of our local values is played out daily and evident for anyone with open eyes – just as is the reality of modern US society (a country deeply divided).

    I’m not interested in a “dark” world, rather one of tolerance, which is why I would prefer that liars, bigots, racists, and gun toting violent folk travel elsewhere.

    My views are shared by many in my local community. During the election tRump was considered a laughing stock and subject to daily discussion.

    My opinion is commonly held. For example, in my original home country – UK – 586,932 people signed a petition (June 2016) to block him from entering the UK, forcing a debate in Parliament.

    Good luck! Happy travels!

  23. @platy

    Not all Australians seem to express these values as you do — Mr. Abbott, Ms. Hanson, etc. Looks like from today’s news you are sending your refugees to be resettled among those Americans. Maybe you could put effort into fixing Australia’s refugee policy?

  24. @ Pak

    In one regard you are right – there are also some politicians here who attempt to whip up racism and hatred to further their political goals and turn to lies and obfuscation rather than extol a rationally argued policy position, ironically buoyed by the extreme religious right.

    That said…to date the far right has been held in check by the electorate:

    Please note that Mr Abbott is not our Prime Minister, but a lowly backbencher. He used to be the PM, but his policies and attempted 2014 and 2015 budgets (key parts never passed the Senate since they were deemed unfair) were so unpopular with the electorate (he crashed in the polls) that his own political party knifed him in the back partway through his term in office and he was replaced by Malcolm Turnbull, who the electorate regarded as a moderate (for example he used to lead the move to change Australia from a monarchy to a republic). Turnbull’s popularity has itself dive-bombed to the depths suffered by Abbott at his knifing since he has failed to deliver middle of the road policies (net satisfaction rating from a high of about +40 eighteen months ago to the current low of about -27 – source: Newspoll).

    Hanson’s party – One Nation – attracted just 4.1% of the national vote at the last election (source: ABC Anthony Green’s Elections Blog 7 July 2016).

    The previous Labor (i.e.Democrat) government’s refugee policy (the so-called “Malaysia Solution”) under PM Julia Gillard was undermined by Abbott when he was opposition (i.e. Republican) leader (the Gillard government was a minority government and needed cross bench support). Abbott has sense admitted his mistake:

    Source: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/labor-reacts-to-tony-abbotts-admission-he-erred-in-opposing-malaysian-deal-on-asylum-seekers/news-story/0c2f4694e3acaf8aaeaa5abc0b0c2938

    The woeful history of asylum seeker policy and the potency of the issue in political game playing goes back to an earlier Liberal-National (i.e. Republican) government of John Howard. References / sources abound on the issue, but in essence Howard politicised the “Tampa affair” to its own ends to win the upcoming election whilst wantonly lying to the electorate (“children overboard”). His party have used the issue to wedge Labor ever since without any regard to either the truth or for welfare of the caught up in the political game play.

    The irony at that time was that Australia hadn’t even filled its annual quota of about 12,000 refugees (it has filled about 7,500 places according to figures I obtained at the time from the electorate office of my local MP, Joe Hockey, now ambassador to the USA). There was an estimated 90,000 plus folk in Australia at the time without appropriate visas who had mostly arrived by plane (not boat!) that nobody worried about.

    A shameful circumstance indeed!

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