Q – We are scheduled to travel to Paris and the French Riviera followed by Barcelona, Madrid, and the Costa Brava in four months. We’re luxury travelers and we’ll be using private drivers and guides throughout but we’re concerned now about how Americans will be greeted in the post-election realization that we will have a President who, according to his official biographer, “has never read a book” and “has absolutely no curiosity about the rest of the world.”
What must the Europeans think of us and could this impact the way they interact with Americans? This will only be our second trip to Europe and both my wife and I feel a sense of shame that this vulgarian is our new President. Our travel agent says not to worry but we’d love to have your take on this. Will Americans be canceling their European vacations next summer?
A – A member of our staff arrived in Paris three days after the election in the States in an attempt to gauge sentiment in Europe. Here is our response to your question, one of many we have received on this topic.
With the possible exceptions of Italy, Croatia, and Germany, most of Western Europe had been anticipating a significant decrease in the number of American tourists next summer. Four major cruise ships have been re-positioned out of Western Europe and Crystal announced that its two new riverboats scheduled to sail the Seine and Loire rivers will now be sent on central and Eastern European schedules. Tour operators are reporting slowing sales of Europe-based destinations in many countries. Luxury travel providers candidly admit that this coming summer season will see fewer Americans traveling abroad.
We can’t lay most of this at Trump’s feet. The series 0f terrorist attacks in Paris and Nice last year seems to have struck a nerve. This was all pre-Trump. But you will surely see a reaction to our election when you speak privately with Europeans of all backgrounds. They, of course, are also astounded by the outcome of our election. They simply never saw the possibility of a candidate who knows so little about the world achieving a majority of our electoral vote.
In England, the BBC offered in-depth coverage of the rise of Steven Bannon, of the alt-right web site Breitbart News.. The site, merges the ideology of 9/11 deniers, the KKK, the “global warming is a hoax” believers, along with skinhead and Aryan groups. And, as the BBC points out, with more than a little incredulity, the man who managed this sitewas chosen by Donald Trump to manage his campaign.
The Europeans, who have a bit of familiarity with the after-effects of an alt-right takeover, are more aware than most Americans of the role of Hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer, who managed to be the single largest bankroller of both Bannon’s web site and the Trump campaign.
All of which is to say that many Europeans are better informed about US politics than our own citizens. We are, after all, a country where 62% of our citizens name Facebook as their major news source.
Sorry for the long response but your question deserves it. We do believe that there will be a ratcheting up of attacks on American tourists if Trump continues to talk about excluding one-third of the world’s population from entering the United States. His promise to pull out of the Paris accords will generate demonstrations across the continent. Conversations with Europeans you meet during your travels may be more political than they would have been prior to the election.
The really good news is that the majority of those who voted for Trump were not US passport holders. If they had been, the results would have certainly been different.
There is, of course, an entertaining side of this all. Trump has always been and, likely, continues to be, a Democrat at heart. The policies toward immigrants and those seeking to enter the US will likely not change very much. The US may not pull out of the Paris accords, Trump will probably change his view on Global warming. He will become more intelligent after his security briefings about the important role played in our national security by loyal, Muslim-Americans. And we will certainly see a tampering down of the inflammatory rhetoric. If that happens, American overseas tourists may not need to be concerned as much about unpleasant confrontations during their travels. But American travelers will be asked about how this all happened and how it is that the person who gets the most votes in our “Democracy” is not necessarily named our President.