Could Australian Tourism Face Its Own Version Of America's 'Trump Slump'?
International visitors to the U.S. have decreased since The Don took office. Thanks to local politicians such as Pauline Hanson, could Australia be next?
From Hollywood to Harlem, America has long been a hugely popular tourist destination for international visitors.
A sudden drop in foreign travel, however, has coincided with Donald Trump's first term in office -- coined the "Trump Slump" by the tourism industry.
The phenomenon could hit Australia next, thanks to conservative politicians attempting to echo the Trump administration's populist narrative.
Australian politics made global headlines on Monday when 28 senators -- including members of the federal government -- supported a motion by Senator Pauline Hanson that declared "It's OK To Be White."
The slogan has been often associated with white supremacists and has been used by former KKK leader David Duke and hate site The Daily Stormer.
Hanson's One Nation party asked the Senate to acknowledge the "deplorable rise of anti-white racism and attacks on Western civilisation". Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the vote from his senators as "regrettable" on Tuesday, and members later withdrew their support for the motion.
International tourists could be offended by Hanson's exploits, warned Dr Christopher Warren, Director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism.
"The warm, outgoing Aussie character, still typified by Crocodile Dundee and 'shrimps on the barbie', is known and loved the world over, drawing millions of visitors from Asia and elsewhere every year," Warren told ten daily.
"We can easily destroy this image by raising unhelpful, game-playing tactics in the public arena which have the potential to erode tourism’s economic benefits and the social benefits of greater respect and appreciation," he said.
Evita Robinson, founder of NOMADNESS Tribe, said Australia's status as a "bucket list destination" could be in danger due to perceived intolerant attitudes.
"Running a group of primarily black American travellers, we're going through enough racial rhetoric in our home country," she described of her brand, which according to its website has over 19,000 sightseers of colour who inject U.S. $50 million into the global travel industry each year.
"You're seeing increased interest in travelling to spaces where being black isn't just tolerated, but also revered -- like Africa. That said, our demographic would stay home if Australia turned into an America 2.0 under Trump," she reasoned.
Since Australia's last federal election returned Hanson to parliament, she's continued to push the parochial agenda debuted in her 1996 maiden speech.
During a visit to Australia in 2016, United Nations representative François Crépeau said local politicians like Hanson have fuelled a growing xenophobia.
“Politicians who have engaged in this negative discourse seem to have given permission to people on the street to act in xenophobic ways and to allow for the rise of nationalist populist groups,” his end-of-mission statement read.
And the apparent rise in populism in Australia appears to closely reflect the country's cultural and political ties to America.
When the Trump administration came into power in 2017, its 'America First' foreign policy emphasised economic nationalism and non-interventionism.
The isolationist position has so far resulted in America's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, a "Muslim travel ban" barring nationals from seven countries from entering the country, trade wars and new visa-vetting policies.
Perhaps in response, tourism to America dropped last year by 12.9 percent, while overall growth in worldwide tourism was nearly eight percent, according to the US Travel Association.
The Travel Association projected a further drop this year, from a 12 percent share of worldwide tourism in 2017 down to 11.7 percent.
While that percentage shift might appear slight, it has had significant effect on America's tourism industry and the economy in general.
“It’s not a reach to say the rhetoric and policies of this Administration are affecting sentiment around the world, creating antipathy toward the U.S. and affecting travel behavior,” Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics, told The New York Times last year.
Hanson's conduct may not lead to "a rash of cancellations among Australia's nine million plus international visitors" but University of Technology Sydney Senior Lecturer Dr. David Bermain said the recent drop in global share prices due to tariffs that the Trump administration imposed on electronic component imports from China could be of greater concern.
"Leisure tourists spending is discretionary and when there are concerns about economic stability, people tend to be much more conservative about their spending. Consequently, travel spending may be kept on ice during an economic slump," he expressed.
"We are talking about millions of prospective travellers globally and hundreds of thousands in Australia. This is potentially a far bigger concern for tourism than a Senate resolution proposed by Pauline Hanson."
According to Warren, whose work aims to "make better places for people to live in and better places to visit", countries like Australia should project an embracing image to the world.
“Tourism is understood to be a conduit for peace, cultural understanding and [provide] local economic opportunities for smaller communities. Central to this is the tourist's desire to visit places that are peaceful and welcoming," he said.