Currancy exchange rates were already proving a deterrent for many foreign visitors to the US, especially Canadian travellers. Then Trump took over in the oval office.
Since his Executive Order banning travellers from 7 Muslim countries, travel to the US by foreign visitors has plunged dramatically. This is sparking fear amongst many travel operators.
Travel Weekly magazine has set the decline in foreign tourism at 6.8%. The fall-off is not limited to Muslim travelers, but also extends to all incoming foreign tourists. A Forbes opinion piece on the subject, may be only capturing a small part of the issue; "Apparently, an attack on one group of tourists is regarded as an assault on all."
Canadians Also Being Restricted
With a growing number of reports of Canadians being denied entry at the US border as well, it's not just Muslims that fear attempting to enter the US. This includes a DailyXtra story that went viral story about a gay man from Vancouver who we denied entry after CBP Officers read that he was "Looking for Loads" on his Scruff Profile.
While it's understandable that US Officials may want to restrict Canadians who intend to participate in rallies and protests from entering the country, the measures to which they are going to do checks on people is unprecedented in US-Canadian history. Reports are that CBP Officers are demanding travellers hand over their mobile devices, and provide passwords for their device as well as their social media accounts.
The political climate is one that is understandably scaring off a number of would-be tourists.
While Trump's Travel Ban was struck down by the US Supreme Court, there is still much confusion at border crossings, and existing laws and policies are being significantly ramped up in their execution and enforcement.
Since his travel ban, flight passengers from the seven Muslim-majority nations named by Trump were down by 80% according to Forward Keys, a well-known firm of travel statisticians. On the web, flight searches, not bookings, but searches, for trips heading to the US was down by 17% globally.
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The LGBT Community is even greater affected
As a marginalized segment of society, the LGBT community is known for being both targeted, but also militant in response to political and social actions and policies. Many within the community are quick to pull or change travel plans, while others are simply refusing to book new travel to the US.
The "Bathroom Bill" in North Carolina, which resulted in the NBA moving it's All-Star Game Weekend to New Orleans, is but one example of a wide-spread issue when it comes to LGBT rights, freedoms, and safety throughout the US.
That said, there are more welcoming areas within the US which share or exceed the values of Canadians when it comes to LGBT inclusivity.
But even these areas are facing significant challenges in overcoming the damage Trump is doing with his words and orders. Just this past week having revoked a "Guidance" issued by the Obama administration directing schools and government offices to be accepting of Trans related issues.
For ski regions such as Bristol Mountain and Jay Peak, both of whom have been extremely welcoming allies to the LGBT community for years, these regions have been pleading with LGBT travelers since Trump's election win. "Trump does not represent the values of the Finger Lakes Region" said Jake Banas of the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection.
Both regions are in fact extremely LGBT welcoming, if you can get across to the border to get to them. But despite this, Canadian travellers to popular LGBT ski weekends at both resorts saw sharp decreases in bookings this year. Bristol Mountain bookings were down by about 90%. Meanwhile advance bookings for the upcoming trip to Big Gay Jay Weekend at Jay Peak are down by about half.
While stats for other LGBT travel to the US are not yet readily available, this is a concerning trend for US Travel operators.
The Costs Are in the Billions... Affecting Jobs
The concern is that if this trend continues, it could reduce the value of the US tourism industry by billions of dollars. This would have a direct impact on jobs within the market, an industry that is disproportionately high in LGBT employment. (Stereotypes suck, but stats are stats).
Many areas in the US are now resorting to desperate measures to try and lure Canadian travelers back. Jay Peak offers Canadians at-par pricing for travel to their resort, while the Finger Lakes region is offering a 25% discount to Canadian travelers.
While these measures will help lure some less-politically motivated Canadian travelers back, the deep discounts still result in a serious hit to revenues.
We at OUTSLOPES
While we have significant and growing concern about what's happening in the US, we at OUTSLOPES continue to support the LGBT Ski Weekends within the US. These festivals bring together a number of members of the LGBT community, and we feel it's important to join our other LGBT members in solidarity. Ski trips aren't about protest or anything political, they are about coming together, socializing together, and providing camaraderie and support for each other. Particularly important when so many are feeling a renewed target on their back.
Further, for those more politically minded, we are speaking with our dollars. Supporting resorts and regions that support us. While the US continues to sort itself out and find it's way, we feel it's important to show support for those who are leading by example. The hope being others will begin to see not only the benefits of being welcoming and accepting of the LGBT community, but also that they may see, through example, that their phobia is misguided.
We won't be visiting North Carolina any time soon, but we'll continue to head to Jay Peak and Vermont.
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Cover Photo: Chris Stewart/The Chronicle