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Tourism Income Great In 2016… But Will Travel Bans Hurt It In 2017?

Ryan Britt

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced last week that national parks added about $35 billion to the economy in 2016. But some industry analysts are seeing signs that new travel bans and immigration policies may impact that growth in 2017. 

Tourism is the second largest industry in Wyoming with visitors spending $3.2 billion and supporting almost 32,000 jobs in 2016. And Zinke announced record breaking revenues of nearly $40 billion thanks to National Park visitation nationwide.

U.S. Travel Association spokesperson Patricia Rojas-Ungar said travelers from Canada, Mexico, Europe and Asia spent much of that. But she said many have begun canceling or failing to schedule trips to the U.S. because of the unwelcoming message that U.S. policies send worldwide.

“When you’re planning a vacation, you want to have a seamless experience," said Rojas-Ungar. "They have heard a lot about extreme vetting. They’ve also heard a lot about what they can or can’t expect at a port of entry. Will they be denied? Will they be scrutinized? And people don’t want to take that type of risk.”

She said the tourism industry saw the same effect worldwide after 9-11. But while other countries rebounded, the U.S. went through what she called “the lost decade.”

“The difference was that we took steps to implement a series of security measures that were rightly needed. But we forgot about the welcoming,”she said

Rojas-Ungar said between 2000 and 2009, the U.S. tourism industry lost out on $509 billion. She said the Trump administration can avoid another backlash by strengthening travel laws while simultaneously sending a welcoming message to international travelers. 

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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