There are those that are predicting a “Trump Slump” in travel to the U.S. (http://www.travelweekly.com/North-America-Travel/Data-suggests-Trump-slump-in-travel-to-US)

Politically motivated refusal to target the U.S. is projected to have a dampening effect on inbound travel to the U.S. The travel ban difficulties of dual nationality citizens and select visa holders may also impede inbound USA travel. The prospect of diminishing revenues is a foreboding thought for everyone connected to or directly involved in the travel industry and the related tourism industry.

Contrastingly, some reports are showing an up-tick in travel to the U.S. and in particular, from the very countries that are temporarily banned! (http://www.travelweekly.com/Travel-News/Airline-News/ARC-Ticket-purchases-actually-rose-from-travel-ban-countries)  Others are stating that any effects of Trump’s temporary travel bans on tourism will not be able to be quantified until a sufficient time has lapsed for data gathering.

Most of the discussion on the topic of impacts on the travel industry resulting from President Trump’s temporary ban is based on deeply held political views. While deeply held political opinions of prospective travelers may impact a decision to travel to a specific region, surprisingly there seems to be less recent media attention given to the larger issue of traveler safety or the safety of national infrastructure.

In my opinion, safety during travel, and managing risk exposure at travel destinations should take priority over all other considerations, including political opinions.  While the motivations behind the travel ban are argued by the pundits (safety and security verses persecution and intolerance) Naivete or deliberate disregard for travel safety might be a cost too high, in spite of short-term maintenance of the travel industry. Frankly, I don’t think the savvy traveler can long ignore the realities of travel risks in today’s world.

While I have yet to see my first visitor to our California dude ranch originating from one of the temporarily banned countries, we do have ranch guests that represent every conceivable variation in political orientation. To this end, we present our travel venue in a non-political format that welcomes all travelers, regardless of political affiliations.  This is a point of solid marketing interests, legal obligations, and frankly common decency.

Our ranch guest profile is most heavily represented by travelers from within the U.S followed by travelers from the U.K. and various sections of Europe.  I suspect that some politically motivated travelers that are opposed to the travel ban may choose to express their disdain by refusing to visit the USA. Conversely, we also may gain more local travel from vacationers that choose to stay local due to concerns over risks during travel abroad to less secure destinations.  The deepening political divide seems likely to be manifest in the travel industry as a secondary divisive effect.

There will be those that refuse to visit an American dude ranch because it means travel to an “intolerant” nation in their view.  While tourism is generally thought to be resilient to the effects of terrorism (http://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2016-03-31/how-terrorism-affects-tourism), I wonder if it would prove to be equally resilient to the imposition of politically based travel decisions. How long can a traveler hold a political grudge? If the travel ban ultimately makes the USA a safer travel venue, then the travel ban could have a long term effect of protecting and increasing travel and tourism.  Those that prefer to travel to less risky destinations will choose travel venues that are secure for themselves and their families. National diligence applied to travel safety and venue security should in the long run protect the travel industry in spite of short term fluctuations based on politically motivated decisions.

How the temporary travel ban is going to impact our California dude ranch is just so much conjecture at this point. Since we do not see significant travel to our California ranch from the banned countries and since inbound international travel is our smallest market segment, I suspect that the impact will be minimal in our circumstance. A point that might more directly impact potential bookings at Marble Mountain Ranch or any other Western dude ranch is likely to be consumer spending confidence and the availability of discretionary spending funds. If the recent records set in the stock markets are any indicator , we could be in for some record setting spending of discretionary funds and increased trickle-down travel spending. If the instability of the E.U. is given more weight, we might be in for some austere times in the tourism industry as it relates to inbound European travel. While foreign travel is an important piece of our consumer profile, the resident USA citizen traveler is by far the largest market sector in the dude ranch industry. The local traveling American citizen should provide some measure of a buffer against fluctuations from the foreign travel sector.

While the topic of travel bans, politically driven travel, and stock market fluctuations make for lively conversation and some anxiety filled introspection, there is little that a small venue business owner can directly control in these areas. To that end, we at Marble Mountain Ranch plan on pressing forward with optimism and determination staying more focused on our circle of influence. Meanwhile, we also look forward to a better time ahead with a calmer and more stable, less divisive climate for life and for travel.

Doug Cole