Are Trump and Mexico the reasons for a US tourist boom?

Image copyright AFP Image caption Air strikes, unrest in Syria and North Korea are among the overseas worries cited

When Barack Obama visited Ireland, one of the organisers said the US president’s arrival was “because of sanctions against us”.

Now the US is back, but do American tourists still face long lists of dangers abroad?

BBC News Latin America correspondent Adam Cox explores the lives of people involved in the US travel market.

Hopes for a US return, now evident in the right-wing attitude the current president has taken since taking office, have given an unprecedented buzz to the country’s travel market.

While some say the new White House administration has been “unhelpful” by withholding concessions, others say that its policies, from a tightening of travel and visa regulations to online screening tools to military exercises, have inspired renewed confidence from would-be US travellers.

But those travelling with concerns are not the only ones who are concerned.

Image copyright AFP Image caption It’s not just people from Mexico trying to come to the US

While there have been no hurricanes or earthquakes like many US tourist destinations, other countries, especially Latin American ones, see them as reasons for a fall in business.

Many people think that they are coming to a resort area to enjoy sunshine, but then there’s violence – such as in Las Vegas, US, where gunman Stephen Paddock killed 59 people and injured 527 others in October.

“It’s an interest for them to have more security and be careful,” Erick Jones, an analyst at Evans Data who tracks the number of Americans going to Mexico, says.

An important element of that security is increasingly focused on Mexican criminals, he adds. “It’s safe for the Americans now, but it’s the most dangerous part of the country.”

Beyond that, the conflict in Syria, and the looming threat of war in North Korea are likely to be higher-priority matters for those crossing the border.

Image copyright AFP Image caption The Zika virus is another risk for some

But the number of Americans going overseas has risen in the past four years and US travel professionals say the big reasons for tourists heading abroad are:

“Henceforth” – the allusion to the threat of terrorism

“Retour to see family and friends”

“A chance to spend money,” one of them says

In fact, travel agents say one of the main aspects of Trump’s presidency that the US travel market in general is happy with is that the president has made it more difficult for Americans to get visas to go abroad – and people like when it is harder for others to get to the US.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption People flock to Niagara Falls when the weather is nice

The Chinese are a good example. American visitors to those parts of China, such as the popular resort area of Hainan, are already limited in their ability to get visas, and this has attracted the attention of Beijing.

During the Obama administration, China became one of the biggest travellers to the US, but Trump’s visa policies – which included an executive order barring travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries – sparked worries of a drop in Chinese tourism.

Again, those concerns have increased since Trump took office.

But, in the end, it’s simply a matter of what goes on elsewhere in the world and when it comes to visits to the US, the main long-term factors to watch are:

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Last year tourism dropped in the UK


“What people worry about the most is the uncertainty,” says Mr Jones, noting that trade negotiations, including visa negotiations, could be ongoing for years.

By the end of last year, some companies had closed their London office and adjusted their supply lines.

‘You get cases where people say, ‘If the UK closes the border to us, can you give us a contact in another country?’ Those will be the people who are affected most.”

Image copyright AFP Image caption Severe winter weather in the US had an impact

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Some of the tourists go to the West Coast, a place that is better protected

Also looming is President Trump’s desire to build a wall between the US and Mexico and what that means for those travelling across the border.

And then there’s Cuba.

The US currently does not have an embassy there or take back American citizens who are caught up in politics.

Many of the tourists worried about a crackdown on Cuban visitors who are seen as spies by some US opponents also have other worries.

In fact, just days before Trump took office there were reports that the US and Cuba were close to establishing an embassy in Havana.

However, Trump says he is maintaining the “wet foot, dry foot” policy of the Obama administration which sees Cuban migrants as “extraordinary” and the law it applies as “amnesty”.

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