Blame, like beauty, must also be in the eye (or at least in the mind, via its prejudices and pre-conceived conclusions) of the beholder.
How else to explain this headline “It’s official: Trump slump slows summer travel to the U.S.,” from Market Watch, a financial news feed from Dow Jones & Co., and this headline – “Expedia Inc’s Air Traffic Data Indicate Healthy Growth In Tourism,” from the less well known Smart Stock News from RecurMedia Inc., appearing within three days of each other in late April?
In the wake of President Trump’s two efforts to block temporarily immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States (both of which were stymied by federal judges) there were a rash of stories alleging that a so-called “Trump Slump” was underway in the travel world. And it was going to ruin U.S. travel service providers including airlines, hotels, rental car companies and popular destinations and tourist attractions who seek to attract foreign tourists and business travelers. TIME, The Guardian, BBC, Frommers.com, the Associated Press, and lots of other general and trade news organizations jumped on that reporting bandwagon.
The only problem with those stories was that, as noted here on March 6, “the evidence for even a small dip in U.S.-bound foreign travel” was, to that point “non-existent.” Not enough time had elapsed from Trump’s largely unsuccessful efforts to have any real data to confirm any understandable – even rational – fears of such a “Trump Slump.”
Well, as promised in my March 6 commentary, I’ve gone through the data from the entire first quarter in hopes of being able to determine, at least preliminarily, whether a Trump Slump did occur or is occurring. And the result is: “I dunno.”
The data still are not clear; far from it.
There’s so much of what statisticians and analysts call “noise” in the data – small changes that likely are caused by entirely unrelated factors – that reaching any determination is impossible, at least at this point. Perhaps we’ll be able to see more clearly by late July or early August, once all the second quarter travel industry performance reports are in and analyzed. But there’s no guarantee even then. We may need a full year’s worth of data to spot whether there ever was a Trump Slump. And it’s entirely possible we’ll never be able to put our finger on it, even if it did actually happen.
But that difficulty in identifying a downturn in foreign travel to the United States resulting directly from Presidential actions and/or rhetoric does make two things very clear:
- If there was, or is a Trump Slump, it’s a very small one; not the great economic calamity many news organizations were trumpeting 45 or so days ago.
- Reporters and editors, like pretty much everyone else, are very likely to solicit and take more seriously the comments of “experts” whose analysis fits those journalists’ preconceived expectations than they are to solicit and accept the comments of “experts” whose analysis does not confirm story lines that emanate from those journalists’ own cognitive biases.
First, let’s look at the first quarter travel data.
The Trump (Travel) Slump Revisited: Accurate, Biased Or Just Incompetent Reporting? – Forbes