By Thierry Malleret, economist
By Thierry Malleret, economist

The issue of whether global populism will negatively impact tourism in general – and wellness tourism in particular – is a burning one, but not easy to address. The reason is it’s difficult to disentangle specific causes from each other. Currency movements and security concerns are as important as the attitude and welcome reserved for foreigners. In Turkey, for example, it’s hard to tell whether the dramatic drop in tourism has more to do with security concerns than with President Erdogan’s populist rhetoric. In another vein, has Brexit and the anti-immigration discourse had any impact on the country’s tourism attractiveness or did the GBP depreciation exercise a stronger effect? In the U.S., there isn’t enough hard data yet to make a serious pronouncement, but some anecdotal evidence points to a “Trump tourism slump.”

Our conviction is the following: in the longer term, countries that turn inward will deter tourism. An unwelcoming attitude towards foreigners and the resultant more complicated logistics (queues at customs, rising paperwork to obtain entry, privacy intrusion, etc.) will put off formerly willing travellers. It’s not that the overall number of tourists will contract globally, but simply that outbound tourists will drop destinations that they find unfriendly and choose their second best choice. As Peter de Wilde, president of the European Travel Commission, says, “Tourism is a tool for tolerance.”

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