Fewer international travelers came to the United States during the first few months of this year than over the same period last year, confirming concerns of some in the travel industry.
New figures released by the US Department of Commerce show a drop in international visitors to the United States by close to 700,000 in the first quarter of 2017, compared with the previous year. European countries were down 10.1 percent, and Mexico was off 7.1 percent in the quarter. The largest drops were from the Middle East and Africa, though they represent a much smaller percentage of overall travel to the United States.
Overall, 697,791 fewer foreigners visited the United States in the first three months of the year, down 4.2 percent to 15.8 million. According to Tourism Economics, a branch of Oxford Economics based in Wayne, Pa., that analyzes travel data, the drop represents a loss of nearly $2.7 billion in spending.
As points of comparison, the first quarter of 2013, after the reelection of Barack Obama, international tourism was up 6.4 percent, and the first quarter of 2009, after Obama’s first election (and during global recession that began at the end of 2008), it was down 14.3 percent.
The question of whether the results prove a ripple effect from President Trump’s proposed travel moratorium on visitors from six majority-Muslim countries, an expanded wall along the Mexican border, and statements perceived as anti-illegal immigration remains unanswered. But the data tracks with a decline in United States favorability abroad: In June, the Pew Research Center found that 49 percent of those surveyed in 37 nations had a positive view of the United States, versus 64 percent at the end of Obama’s term in office.
Last week Pew reported nearly two-thirds of Mexicans held a negative opinion of the United States, more than double the figure of two years ago.
“It’s not a reach to say the rhetoric and policies of this administration are affecting sentiment around the world, creating antipathy toward the US and affecting travel behavior,” said Adam Sacks, the president of Tourism Economics.