Travel to the US Is Down

They call it the Trump Slump in the travel industry:

“[The travel industry is] currently drawing attention to an unintended consequence of the Trump-led efforts to stop many Muslims from coming to the U.S., pointing to a sharp drop in foreign tourism to our nation that imperils jobs and touristic income. It’s known as the ‘Trump Slump.’ And I know of no reputable travel publication to deny it.” —Arthur Frommer, Frommersdotcom, undated

European travel groups have pulled their plans, I’ve read. Flights from Australia to mainland US are the cheapest they’ve been in a decade, I’ve seen; they can’t fill the planes. Even our friends the Canadians are going elsewhere, the Washington Post says. The Toronto Metro says Canadian searches for US flights dropped 43 percent after the first trump travel ban. The state of Georgia expects the loss of tourism will have a $27 million impact. NBC notes that last year US tourism experienced a 4.6 billion dollar loss.

Four billion dollars is a lot. Forty thousand jobs lost in services and hospitality.

And it’s not just tourism: educational institutions are suffering too. Canadian CTV News reports that international applications to Canadian universities surged after the trump election. American universities are some of the most highly respected in the world, but now that children are shooting up schools with semi-automatic weapons (again), international parents are rethinking where they send their precious children for higher education. Applications to American boarding schools that court international students are down too.

After the Parkland, Florida, shooting, even Americans are staying away from Florida, which has virtually no gun laws at all.

More and more travelers are deciding to bypass the US for someplace … safer. On Twitter one reads comments like this: “As a Canadian, I will not spend my tourist dollars in US as long as the @NRA owns the lawmakers.” Or “I teach in South Korea right now. One of my students told me her family cancelled a trip to the States because they don’t feel safe travelling there. And she lives literally a one hour drive away from the North Korean border.” And “My partner lived in and loved the US before returning to UK, I’ve visited and would love to travel coast to coast. But right now, no thanks.” And “I’m Canadian. I don’t feel comfortable visiting the US anymore. I live 20 min from the border, used to shop across the line all the time. No more.”

It’s a shame, but seriously—would you come to this shithole country while the Shithole-in-Chief is in power? I sure wouldn’t. I’ve long wanted to take my immigrant husband to Washington DC to see the monuments (inspiring stuff!), but there’s no way I’m setting foot in that city until the trump stench has dissipated.

Of course, we’ve been a bit nervous about traveling abroad, at least until Gerry’s green card status becomes permanent—but as you know, last December we had no choice. (And also no hassle, thank goodness. The center continues to hold … at least for white folks. I’m not being flippant; we recognize our privilege. People of color always have it harder.)

I wasn’t raised in wealth, but my parents were big on driving trips. They wanted us kids to see things, and we did see a lot of the United States. Some of Canada and Mexico. I was a parent myself, though, before I got farther afield (England!). I’m no “elite” that the republicans delight in denigrating, and yet … I must be. Because even in my limited experience, I’ve become convinced that travel to foreign countries changes us in good ways. It opens our eyes and hearts to the notion that all of humanity is the same, no matter what color we paint our houses or what type of clothing we wear.

Still, I wouldn’t want to come here either.

 

Advertisements

Nonrefundable Reservations? Maybe, Maybe Not.

PSA: Just because it says the reservation is nonrefundable doesn’t mean it’s not. Just ask and explain and be nice. Also, beware the Ping-Pong Effect.

Here’s what happened.

We made hotel reservations to go to Texas—a trip we couldn’t wait to take, as it was the wedding celebration of some good friends (and I happen to know from personal experience that Texans know how to throw a party). We used some Verizon “points” to reduce the cost. It was nonrefundable, but we are the sort of people who make plans and follow through on them. You can get great deals (on hotels in Ireland, for example) if you use the nonrefundable option—and we have, frequently.

We were a little over two months out from the event.

But after nearly all the arrangements were made, we found out that my son’s grad school commencement ceremony was the same long weekend we were going to be in the Hill Country.

(Bummer. But we’ll reschedule Texas. We were really, really looking forward to it.)

I snagged this from the Texas Hill Country website; they apparently got it from wideopencountry.com.

So … I called the customer service number for Verizon Smart Rewards on a Sunday afternoon. I was just looking for a little grace. We knew it was a nonrefundable reservation. But things happen. Oh, the humanity, etc.

The clerk repeated the this is nonrefundable mantra, but then said she’d call the hotel to see if they’d release me from the obligation “as a courtesy.” Her words. I was on hold for about five minutes. (How do I know? I always look at my watch when I’m put on hold in the middle of a customer service conversation.)

Shortly the Verizon customer service rep got back on the line and said, “I spoke with Sarah at the hotel, and they won’t release the funds. You paid us and we paid the hotel, so you see, we can’t give you the money [several hundred dollars] back if we won’t get it back from the hotel.”

Hm. It all seemed a bit quick to me. I told her I understood, but that I’d look into it further. (But not, of course, until Monday, when perhaps Sarah’s boss was in the office. We’re still going to go to Texas. It would be good customer relations for the hotel to release us from this obligation. And they’d have plenty of time to rebook the room.)

So on Monday I called back to the hotel in Texas—and guess who I spoke with? Sarah! And Sarah told me she couldn’t do anything with the reservation. She said Verizon still had the funds and the ability to cancel or change anything about the reservation. I’d have to call them, she said.

A-HA! The Ping-Pong Effect. Both sides deny the ability to effect meaningful change, and the customer/client is batted back and forth between them until she gets tired and gives up.

So I called Verizon again. The nice man I spoke with this time listened to my story (including the somewhat mystifying details about my conversation with the lovely Sarah), took notes, and then said, “I’ll refer this to our travel team. It may take them twenty-four to forty-eight hours, but they’ll get back to you.”

Good enough. I still had 1) the may-I-speak-with-your-supervisor option; 2) the will-you-look-at-your-records-and-see-how-long-I’ve-been-your-customer-[answer: since 1994]-and-do-you-really-want-to-lose-me-over-this option; 3) the I’m-going-to-talk-about-this-on-social-media-including-my-travel-blog option; and 4) the calling-our-credit-card-company-to-dispute-the-charges option. C’mon: I made these reservations three days ago, realized the mistake, and the dates were still sixty days out. This shouldn’t have been difficult.

In less than an hour (!) Verizon called back. No problem! they said. They were delighted to refund the full amount, they said. It could take up to seventy-two hours to appear on our credit card statement, they said. (And it did appear.)

Conclusion? It may be that they say no first. Why not? They could end up with our money if we give up too soon. But I believed Sarah. She’s in the hospitality business. Her hotel didn’t want to make me mad over a three-night reservation that was two months away.

It’s a big world, but so far, the humans are still in charge. 🙂