Past Events Affecting the U.S. Travel Industry

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Past Events Affecting the U.S. Travel Industry

Two US events in the last 40 years that had negative affects on the US travel industry were the election of Donald Trump and Hurricane Katrina.

Election of Donald Trump

  • In 2016, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, and due to his "proposed travel bans, anti-immigration language, and heightened security measures," the US became a less sought-out destination for international tourists.
  • As such, by November 2017, a year after Trump took office, spending by international travelers to the US had decreased by 3.3%, meaning "losses of $4.6 billion spent in the U.S. economy and 40,000 jobs." Overall travel to the US had dropped by 4%.
  • As such, the US became the third most-popular destination for world travel, loosing its second-place spot to Spain.
  • This decline continued through 2019, exacerbated by the trade war between the US and China which has been cited as one reason for the double-digit decrease in Chinese tourists to the US.

Hurricane Katrina

  • Hurricane Katrina was a tropical cyclone that hit Louisiana as a Category 4 storm on August 29th, 2005, near New Orleans. The storm also impacted Mississippi.
  • The city of New Orleans escaped a direct hit by the storm, but was later flooded as the city's levee system gave way. By August 30th, 80% of the city was flooded. The situation deteriorated as government officials failed to provide adequate food, water, shelter, and sanitation for the stranded city residents.
  • The overall economic affect of the storm was massive, costing $160 billion in damage. Additionally, many residents never returned to New Orleans.
  • For the tourism industry within New Orleans, the effects were also incredible. In 2004, the year prior to the storm, 10.1 million tourists visited New Orleans, spending $4.9 billion. The year after the storm, only 3.7 million visitors went to New Orleans, spending only $2.8 billion. Tourism numbers and spend did not return to pre-Katrina levels until 2014.

Global Events

Two global events that had a negative impact on the US travel industry were the Swine Flu outbreak in 2009 and the SARs outbreak in 2003.

Swine Flu

  • The H1N1 pandemic, more commonly known as the Swine Flu pandemic, began in 2009 and lasted until 2010. It caused over 200,000 fatalities worldwide and, in affected countries, brought losses of 0.5% to 1.5% of GDP.
  • Over 1,000 people were infected in Mexico, and nearly 90 people died.
  • Globally, international travel declined by 8.5% and domestic travel by 6%.
  • On US travel, many US airlines with flights to Mexico saw their stocks decline, with some falling 10-16%. Share prices of major US hotels also fell between 5-11%.


  • The SARs, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, pandemic took place from 2002-2004 and cost the global economy $54 billion.
  • Over 8,000 people worldwide contracted the SARs virus, and 800 people died.
  • However, it only took the global travel industry three months after the end of the outbreak to rebound.
  • According to the World Tourism Organization (WTO), SARs "reduced international passenger traffic by 2.6% in the first 4 months of 2003. Travel to Asia Pacific countries dropped by 10% to 50% in late March to April 2003."
  • The number of international visits to the US during the SARs outbreak declined by about 5% in 2003.
  • Experts estimate that the US tourism industry lost around $3 billion due to the SARs outbreak in 2003.