Many in the travel industry are worried about messages the U.S. government is sending that will lead international travelers to believe they aren’t welcome. To combat that, the hotel industry needs to let them know they are.
The political climate in the United States seems to have been dominated lately by what could be described as at its best American-centric attitudes and at its worst anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric. Many in the travel industry have raised red flags about this recent trend, saying the policies and statements of President Donald Trump could already be pushing down the number of inbound international travelers to the country.
As my colleague Stephanie Ricca blogged about recently, this topic has led to experts and analysts, including Tourism Economics founder and President Adam Sacks, to make some dire predictions.
And as Stephanie also keenly pointed out, holding your breath and hoping Trump decides to completely change tactics and rhetoric is kind of a foolhardy strategy. Even if he did that, I have a hard time believing many international travelers would take his statements at face value after everything that has already been said, and ultimately it’s the message and perception that is likely to do damage, not policy.
So as dire as that sounds, that doesn’t mean Trump and his supporters’ voices have to be the only ones that potential international travelers get to hear.
Collectively and individually the players in the hotel industry have a powerful and loud voice. You have marketing and advertising muscle. You have loyalty relationships. Many have brand awareness painstakingly built over a matter of years.
It’s time to shout into those megaphones yourselves. And this time it’s not just about telling potential international travelers that you’re a better option than your competitor down the street; it’s about letting them know that everyone on your block would love to meet them.
And this can’t just be a U.S. Travel Association or AH&LA initiative. The Marriotts, Hiltons, Choices, IHGs, Wyndhams and everyone else need to flex their muscles to clearly state this increasingly important message: The U.S. is still a desirable and friendly destination.
As we’ve written about recently, other countries are looking at this as a moment to steal share, and if they are successful, it could be an extended period before that leisure business is won back.
I’m not saying the hotel industry has the power to completely overcome the industry’s rhetoric, but they can pretty successfully paint the picture that the U.S. is more than just that single message. A traveler might be swayed if they know that a hotel in New York is still going to be a welcoming landing spot, even if some particularly boisterous individuals in Washington D.C., or other parts of the country, might not be as friendly.
This might seem like a period of darkness when it comes to courting international travel, but it’s time the entire industry takes a page out of the Motel 6/Tom Bodett playbook and let those travelers know that you’re leaving the light on for them.
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