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What a Trump Presidency Means for American Travelers

Donald J. Trump, America's first Orange President
Chuck Sat, 2016-11-12 07:00

If, by midnight on January 20th, Inauguration Day, all Americans abroad are not home, they will come home to find the front doors locked, will have to sleep over at a friend’s, and will have a lot of explaining to do the next morning to avoid having their keys taken away and allowances cut off for a month.

If you think the Trump election surprised a lot of Americans, then the rest of the world is in something of toupee shock (half comical finger pointing and half genuine astonishment). Our HomeAway.com host in Guadeloupe said it simply and best when he asked us, “Mr. Trump has a very bad reputation, why would America elect him?”

This is about as political a blog as you’ll find here, and I won’t get into any opinion or conjecture behind the answer to that question, though I think it pretty fair to say many Americans of all political persuasions agree with this assessment on Trump’s reputation. You can find millions upon millions of answers, however, on Facebook, which we, personally, are hoping soon returns to a social platform upon which to learn how to make great casseroles very, very quickly and upon which we can follow the goings-ons of people we know but would rather not actually see on a regular basis.

Just kidding. We love all our Facebook friends and eagerly welcome the opportunity to plan visits that probably won’t occur.

Back to topic. What does having Donald Trump sitting in the Oval Office mean for American travelers? First and foremost, America is going to be great again. Don’t worry what “great” means, but it’s going to be really, really big, believe me.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Presumably, “great” means kicking our economy into gear. The US economy being a cornerstone of the world economy, that would be great news around the world. Trump’s goal is 4%. If he can achieve it, that’s 1% to 2% over growth during the Obama era (depending on whose charts you look at). That would result in a strong dollar and Americans more willing and able to spend them abroad.

Just how he would achieve it might confuse matters somewhat. Tinkering with our trade agreements, first off, may or may not work. Americans benefit from lower prices on foreign goods under those trade agreements, so economic growth accompanied with inflation may leave Americans feeling great about the economy and jobs but with not much more disposable income than they have today.

For any deeper analysis of Trumponomics, you’ll have to check out sites like The Economist or Forbes or this Moody’s Analytics paper at economy.com. For a more direct impact to American travel, let’s think about Trump’s immigration policy. You might assume that immigration and travel are only indirectly related: after all, why would Americans traveling outside the US be impacted by Trump’s promise to tighten up our borders at home?

The reason is that countries tend to reciprocate travel policy. A few years back, when the US announced they’d fingerprint incoming visitors from South America, many South American countries responded by doing the same to visiting Americans. This was mainly taken as an annoyance, but if Trump’s ill-defined “extreme vetting” of foreign visitors is implemented as it could be construed, Americans can also expect similar increases in scrutiny traveling outside the country. Increased scrutiny also comes with a cost, meaning all those no-cost visitor visa countries might suddenly be charging Americans to visit to help cover the costs of their own “extreme vetting”.

For dedicated travelers like us, we approach such with a “so be it” sort of attitude. We’ll still go to Europe if the EU decides to charge Americans a €25 visitor visa fee and we have to wait an hour longer on arrival. But “extreme vetting” would be implemented in both immigration and border security. Americans returning from abroad can expect more scrutiny and longer waits to return home. Though I would suspect (hope) the business sensibilities of a Trump administration would mean more investment in pre-vetting programs for Americans like TSA’s Global Entry and Precheck.

But the first and most impactful result of the Trump administration on American travelers might be in airport security across all US airports for both foreign and domestic travel. Longer-term investments in travel infrastructure and technology (if they are indeed made), like more secure airport layout and high-tech body scanners and bomb sniffers, will take years to develop and implement. In the short run, to ensure a terrorist-free travel experience, President Trump will have to make everyone take off their shoes and belts and coats and submit to random cavity searches. So American travelers, bend over and get ready for Trump-era travel security (sorry, really couldn’t resist that one).

Oh, and don't plan to walk to Mexico anytime soon.

Upcoming blog: are the Global Entry and Precheck programs worth the money and effort?