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The Trump Effect on Travel: Some Early Indicators

Donald Trump. Love him or hate him—and the U.S. election results suggest you’re as likely to do one as the other—he’s become a fact of everyday life. And not just for Americans. His election has reverberated throughout the world.

Although it’s unclear exactly how, his policies regarding government regulation, trade, and immigration are sure to shake up the worlds of travel and tourism as well. A new study by travel-search company Kayak gives some early clues as to how the Trump Effect may play out in travel.

Analyzing its own search data, Kayak found that “demand for flights to the U.S. has nosedived since it was announced that Donald Trump has been elected the next U.S. president.”

Globally, demand for flights to the U.S. dropped a sobering 30 percent. Among U.K. residents, demand was off less, a 9 percent drop, but still significant since U.S. flights are normally among the most heavily searched by that group.

Kayak also found a notable increase in U.S. residents’ searching for flights out of the country following the election. Demand for flights to Russia was up 33 percent; flights to France were up 29 percent; U.K. flights were up 19 percent; and Canada flights increased by 15 percent. While some wags will attribute the uptick in outbound travel to Trump-haters fleeing his reach, Kayak sees it as no more than weary voters looking for relief after a particularly stressful election cycle.

Here’s how Kayak summarized the findings: “The data demonstrates that since the election result, demand and interest in going to the States really has nosedived—and the increase in searches from the U.S. would indicate that many who are currently based there are looking to get a break from reality.”

What the U.S. airlines will be looking at, of course, is the net effect: what happens to passenger numbers and yields when the increases and decreases are offset against each other.

For travelers, a net decrease in demand could spur fare wars, or at least a bit more competitive pressure to lower airfares. And a net increase would do the opposite. It remains to be seen, both short and long term.

Trump’s election also raises questions about the strength of the dollar, about the impact of border security on airport screening, about so many factors that will have an impact on travel over the next four years and beyond.

At this point, there are more questions than answers. But whatever it turns out to be, the Trump Effect is certain to be profound.

Reader Reality Check

How does Trump’s election affect your travel plans and expectations?

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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