Tourists flock to US amid call to ‘make America great again’

Trinidad and Tobago set to host 34,000 tourists this year as island tourism sector recovers

Countries bordering the US – which Donald Trump famously termed “take away our money” – are boosting tourism to record levels.

Despite recent anti-immigrant campaigns, travel companies across the globe are packing flights to the US, which is set to see record numbers this year.

Photograph: YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images

As a result, around a quarter of the 8 million US hotel rooms – including major chains and small independent properties – were fully booked during the last three months of the year, according to research from online travel site Expedia.

For the year, 88% of the 2.3 million US hotel rooms are occupied and 70% of the leisure and first-class hotel rooms have been reserved by US guests.

Many of the tour operators flying to the US have enjoyed an uptick in bookings after Trump pledged the US would become “such a beautiful, hospitable country” and cracked down on illegal immigrants in a speech to Congress.

Since then more than a million government documents have been removed from a database controlled by the US immigration department that enables authorities to locate undocumented immigrants.

But those measures do not appear to have dampened demand. On the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago, which sits just 50 miles north of Cuba, tourist arrivals are up 26% for the year. And this November, 17,000 tourists are expected from the US in one week alone.

In March, tourism bosses reported that the Caribbean lost $800m in lost revenue last year due to the new US immigration policy and cancelled bookings.

New US border policy has not deterred foreign visitors: trips have risen by 15% since the changes, including 13% to Mexico.

But travel industry professionals have complained that travel restrictions including Trump’s Mexico tariffs have made businesses poorer, disrupting international transfers, trade and travel.

Tourism was one of the first areas to begin recovering following the eight-day travel shutdown earlier this year, when congressional Democrats demanded that the president open the southern border. A deal was reached days later, and tens of thousands of federal workers were soon back to work, though disruption to the Caribbean continued.

Since then the windfall has continued, with destinations such as Jamaica and the Bahamas at their highest levels in four years.

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