THE BORDER: ‘Trump Slump’ could be good for tourism

A growing reluctance to travel to the U.S. these days could benefit Sarnia-Lambton’s tourism industry. Journal file photo

Cathy Dobson

Sarnia-Lambton is positioned for an economic boost thanks to a phenomenon tourism leaders are calling the Trump Slump.

Interest in travel to the U.S. has nosedived since President Donald Trump’s election, with a significant drop in flight searches and bookings since his inauguration and controversial travel ban.

A stream of stories about Canadian citizens detained and interrogated by U.S. border agents – including a Sarnia physician – is also impacting ground travel.

“The information we’re getting is that fewer are bothering to visit the United States because of all the stories about difficulties crossing the border,” says Joy Sim-Robbins, interim general manager at Tourism Sarnia-Lambton (TSL).

The Trump Slump has Ontario tourism operators very excited, said Sim-Robbins, who attended a recent conference in London.

“The number of people going to the U.S. is dropping like a lead balloon amid all the fears, the sense that things are unsettled there,” Sim-Robbins said. “We want to ride that wave.”

Early indications are that inquiries and web hits about travel to the United States are falling, she said.

Cheapflights, a flight search and comparison website, reports that 29% of Britons – who make up the largest number of foreign visitors to the U.S. after Canadians and Mexicans – say they’re less likely to travel there with Trump in power.

Such sentiments have already cost the U.S. travel industry $185 million in lost revenue, according to the Global Business Travel Association. Ironically, more flights are being booked in Mexico-related searches.

Sarnia-Lambton could gain by attracting more tourists interested in visiting north of the border. Tourism is this region’s third-largest industry, behind petrochemicals and agriculture.

Sim-Robbins said Trump’s impact coupled with a weak Canadian dollar is setting Sarnia-Lambton up for a banner season.

“Absolutely, there’s opportunity for us here,” she said. “I think we’re going to have a very good year.”

This month, Sim-Robbins’ office is marketing packages aimed at U.S. and Canadian motorcoach groups to come celebrate Canada’s 150th here.  The packages include stops at the Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery, Germain Gardens, Victoria Playhouse in Petrolia and other local destinations.

TSL is also increasing its U.S. marketing to nearby states like Ohio and Michigan.

“They view us as a safe place where they can get a good deal and we don’t carry guns,” said Sim-Robbins.  “We’ve had a lot of inquiries from the U.S.

“Our numbers are already up.”