The politics of tourism: How Donald Trump´s immigration policy may affect global tourism

Tourism is as much a political terrain as a cultural practice, the link between politics and tourism dates back to the 1960’s, it is a complex and multi-faceted relationship with economic, cultural, social and ecological implications, and a subject which is assuming a higher priority in the research literature.  The activity has been promoted as a route to economic development for poor nations and wielded as an instrument of political leverage between nations – as the U.S. embargo against travel to Cuba or the easing of tourist-visa requirements between Russia and Brazil demonstrate. As a cultural practice, global tourism has been imagined as a bridge between cultures and as a form of public diplomacy, with the tourist’s passport emblematic of the complex relationship between politics and culture. Taylor and Francis (2015) suggested that tourism along with its obvious international economic impact transcends governmental boundaries by bringing people from different cultures together through the understanding of different cultures, environment and heritage. It has become one of the most important vehicles for promoting understanding, trust and goodwill among people all over the world.

Political and economic decisions made by different governments directly or indirectly affect global tourism. Fracking and tourism constitutes a subject of great importance and one that needs much research attention, especially in consideration of the bigger issue of fossil fuel dependence; consider what happened in Canada to Lac-Mégantic, a wonderful tourist attraction in the past, destroyed by a rail disaster involving an unattended 74-car freight train carrying Bakken Formation crude oil. One may want to consider other issues such as the huge water loss that fracking demands, pollution of underwater aquafers and reserves, potential increase in earthquakes and failure to use energy sources that are kinder to the earth enviroment than oil with the impact on climate change that petroleum use is having along with other causes. Another area not considered often on this list is the battle waged world wide between oil producers and their allies on the one hand, including the Cato Institute, and cities and regions on the other hand to create electricity powered local light rail transit which is happening in more and more cities. Rail lines have opened recently in Tuscon, Arizona, Washington D.C., the Gold Coast in Australia and one is being built after a very long political war in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Through reduced use of both cars and buses these commuter and tourist attraction lines will have a positve environmental effect.

Research has demostrated that diplomatic relations between countries affect global tourism and few examples are more clear in regards to the overlap of tourism and politics than the the U.S. embargo against travel to Cuba. Limiting travel by Americans has been a central aspect of the unilateral embargo of Cuba by the United States. Different Administrations have narrowed and broadened the channel depending entirely on political considerations. President Obama opened the door completely to Cuban Americans but only partially lifted bizarre bureaucratic limits for the rest of the Americans. Unless Congress changes the law, Obama cannot permit completely sun and sand all inclusive tour packages, but he does have authority to extend the general (not applied for) license to all purposeful travelers, e.g. people to people, cultural exchange, high schools, sports, conferences, etc.   That would allow Americans to join Canadians, Europeans, etc., organizing their own programs and staying in privately owned bed and breakfasts, using public transportation, and renting cars (offering rides to ubiquitous hitch hikers), instead of being forced by the US government to join group tours organized by Cuban government related companies. Cuban American hard liners object to the additional income that would be gained by the State from more U.S. visitors.  However, it is likely that their real fear is of what actually happens as a result of human contact.  Regardless of what researchers say and the general public opinion about Cuba’s political and economic system, most Americans visit the country and go back home convinced that the lack of normal diplomatic and economic relations is a dumb policy and hurts both nations.

There is a lot affecting the tourism market overseas right now, from terrorism, the refugee crisis, to political instability in the southern Mediterranean, to the Zika virus, to the strength of the dollar in America. But many tourism practitioners are concerned about the effect one Donald J. Trump on travel. It is no secret at this point that Donald will be the Republican nominee in the United States presidential elections of 2016. The real estate mogul and ¨politician¨ is not your ordinary presidential candidate, his radical foreign policy proposals have earned him admirers and foes in equal measure, he has been lambasted not only by Democrats, but also fellow Republicans. Former Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney cast him as “very, very not-smart” in his comments about allowing ISIS to take out Syria’s leadership and for proposing the slaughter of the families of terrorists; according to him, Mr. Trump is taking advantage of the American public´s anger and directing it for less-than-noble purposes. “He creates scapegoats in Muslims and Mexican immigrants. He calls for the use of torture. He calls for the killing of innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protestors,” he said, adding that Trump would be a bad president for the world.

Diplomacy 2

Frank Luntz, a veteran pollster and political consultant who has worked with Republican politicians including Pat Buchanan, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, and George W. Bush said the following of Trump and his quest to be America´s next president “Donald Trump continues to defy the modern laws of political gravity. He stokes just as much fear as hope. On close examination, he doesn’t have a positive message, other than the vacuous injunction to -Make America Great Again. His performance, while rambunctious, is rambling. He incessantly talks political process rather than policy. When he says, -I could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue today…and not lose votes-, his audience only hears an authentic straight-shooter telling it like it is. He flouts his wealth – rather than run from it as most billionaires do – to raucous applause among lower-wage crowds”, (Full article published in The Telegraph, 5th of May, 2016).

Without attempting to judge Trump´s “political correctness”, the present article will look at the implication of his foreign policy proposals touching on immigration.  Trump plans to construct a $5-10 billion Wall on U.S.’s southern border and use a federal anti-terrorism surveillance law as a tool to force México to pay for it. This immigration plan relies largely on threatening to bar undocumented Mexican immigrants in the United States from wiring money to relatives in México. Using a broad interpretation of the post-9/11 USA Patriot Act, Trump would threaten to issue new regulations that would compel money transfer companies like Western Union to verify a client’s identity and legal status before authorizing a wire transfer. Trumps immigration plan, does not recognise the delicate relationship between political borders and global tourism, understanding this relationship requires a  detailed  understanding  of  the  concept  of  borders  and  their  various  different shapes, functions and scales. But most relevant within the context of tourism research is to understand that all political borders are human creations that through their form and type are not only able, but specifically designed to indicate the relationship a nation-state has with its neighbours. It could be argued that the less  visible  and  enforced  a  borderline,  the  friendlier  the  relationship,making  the existence of co-operation across borders more likely. He equaly needs to understand that tourism activities between the two countries depend on goodwill and co-operation, for tourism to prosper, host destinations must willingly welcome the tourists. Trumps plan is likely to create animosity between the two countries, if American tourists do not feel welcome in México, they will not go there (tourists from the USA account for 55% of international tourist arrivals in México). Certainly,   the   most   important and   most   difficult   aspect   of   cross-border   co-operation in general, with regard to the tourism industry, relates to policies and political issues, this is not easily achieved and is often accompanied by mutual suspicion and the desire to increase one’s own share over that of the neighbour. It is important to bring local, regional and national policies into a coherent line, in order to create an immigration policy capable of capturing the desired economic benefits of a prospering tourism industry and to avoid negative threats and implications. However, immigration and tourism policies, at least as far as border regions are concerned, also have to be compatible with policies that have been created on the other side of the border and need to consider national interests that might differ tremendously between neighbouring nations.

In another immigration policy proposal, Trump plans to ¨temporarily¨ disallow all Muslims from entering the United States in addition to surveillance against mosques and the establishment of a database for all Muslims living in the U.S. This plan will potentialy lock out muslim tourists and  generaly scare foreign tourists away from the USA. An article: Could a Donald Trump victory scare foreign tourists away from Florida and the U.S.? Written by Justine Griffin (a Times staff writer) and published in Tampa Bay Times, states that tourism officials in Florida and across the nation are fretting that a Trump presidency — and even the rhetoric coming from Trump on the campaign trail — could put a dent in tourism that is breaking records all over the nation. According to the author, charter tours and travel booking companies say some tourists from Europe and Latin America — two big markets for Florida and Tampa Bay — have said they will vacation elsewhere if Trump is elected because they loathe his anti-immigrant policies and think he stokes an atmosphere of racial profiling and distrust of foreigners. Pundits agree that after 9/11, America adopted a fortress mentality, and it was a very unwelcoming experience to visitors. That hurt tourism and created a lot of lost years. In a direct quote from the aforementioned article, Muhannad Alabbassi, from the small island of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf in the Middle East, worries that if Trump is elected, it will affect his plans to study in the United States. “After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, my family did cancel their plans to work and possibly live in the U.S. mainly due to concerns over hate crimes and racial profiling,” said Alabbassi, 24. “Now they are reluctant about going to North America and Europe for the same reason, this time because of ISIL and the migrant crisis. There’s no doubt their reaction would be the same if Donald Trump gets elected and starts an open discrimination campaign against Muslims.”

Another experience mentioned in the article is that of Iris Köpke, a journalist in Germany, who said that Germans are very interested in what’s happening in American politics, the U.S. presidential election is covered in major newspapers and television news channels every day. “The fact that Donald Trump is being quite successful surprises many people and also sparks interest in the election, but mostly in a negative way,” added Köpke, who is the editor-in-chief of the German travel trade magazine Luxusinsider. “I vividly remember people saying that they won’t travel to the U.S. as long as George W. Bush is president because they didn’t like his attitude. That totally disappeared with Obama, who is rather popular in Germany compared to Bush. I think a president called Trump might bring out those old resentments once again.”

I will conclude by saying that tourism is now one of the biggest industries in the world and has become extremely important to the World´s economy. However despite the size, it is a very volatile industry. There are a number of factors that can have an influence on peoples travel decisions including political decisions, the threat of terrorism, civil/world wars, and natural disasters. I therefore invite Donald Trump to review his foreign policy proposals touching on immigration to avert any potential negative impact on global tourism, just in case he becomes the president of United States later this year.


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