US tourism to Europe resumes after temporary dip following Trump move

Reaction to US pulling out of the Paris climate agreement has meant most European countries have been issuing visas faster than usual

The European travel agency Amadeus says the exodus of tourists from the US has proved short-lived, with travel agents saying arrivals into the US from Europe are now tracking as normal.

The Paris-based international travel agency said visitors from Europe, after two decades of steep declines, increased 2% in May compared with the same month last year. By contrast, tourism to the US slumped by more than a quarter in May compared with May 2017. The US was also the only destination out of 28 to decline over the same period.

“A month after the US pulled out of the Paris accord, people appear to be taking a breather. It looks like we’re going to be back to normal, at least until we hear more from Donald Trump about his upcoming meeting with Kim Jong-un,” Amadeus said in a statement.

The shock US withdrawal from the Paris accord led hotels in Europe to put up prices and to offer better deals. Responding to criticism that it would harm business at home, hotels in France offered a surcharge of €100 to €300 (£88-£260) for a stay in the US.

In Germany, Germany’s tourism authority predicted no real drop in the number of tourists expected in 2018, but rather a slight increase from 2017, after a decline the previous year that was more than double that expected for the current year.

Travel agents in the United States said they were struggling to keep up with demand for visas, as frustrated tourists from Europe and elsewhere raised hopes of a waiver, or easier entry to the US. But ultimately the agency said no waivers would be issued.

“After all, the US is currently facing rising terror threats, such as the airline protests. So the US may have to respect the agreement or suffer the consequences,” Amadeus said.

But there are still clear signs of a loss of trust. Europe’s travel market research group, ForwardKeys, said its exchange rate checks showed a drop of 70% on last summer in the volume of bookings to the US from east and central Europe, compared with the same period last year.

It is the first time this data has been made available from ForwardKeys, and is indicative of last year’s decline. It was later followed by a 41% slump in demand from that region so far this year.

The US administration has been at the heart of a scandal over travel, after two Australians were detained at Los Angeles airport in March amid fears they were illegally attempting to enter the country under a travel waiver programme. The officials said the case of the fourth Australian was dropped when concerns from the Australian government were met.

Transit movements show the damage being caused to US markets by low US interest rates, the weak dollar and the decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement.

Amadeus said it expected total travel demand this year to decline by 2%, rather than a previous prediction of 2.5%.

The US is still the third most popular destination for European tourists, after the UK and France.

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