Danish travel guru, journalist and Senior Editor Ejvind Olesen—respected for his decades of experience with the travel sector through highs and lows—has written a plain spoken and heartening editorial for TTG Nordic’s Standby.dk explaining why we shouldn’t fret over the impact of politics on the travel industry.
Only acts of terrorism and currency fluctuations can negatively impact people’s desire to see the world, he explains, speaking particularly to Denmark, though he suggests this is true of all people.
“There are really only two things that can affect our wanderlust in the global context. So it is in most countries, although some are affected by their governments to be more nervous than we do in Denmark,” Olensen writes. “The fear of terror and significant swings to a more expensive exchange rate can change our travel patterns. Virtually nothing else, except natural catastrophes of course. Most could not care less about who governs the country we travel to, if you look away from the two shocks mentioned [terrorism and currency]. Have you heard of someone who would not go on a cruise this year to St. Petersburg, because Putin is the president? No, of course not.”
In fact, as Olensen says, people have long travelled to places which have leaders who hold opinions which vary dramatically from their own, to countries with oppressive regimes, and even overcome barriers to entry, applying for visas to visit countries they want to see.
Olensen also brought some common sense to surveys or commentary which ring alarm bells, citing consumer mood post-Brexit or post-Trump as negatively impacting future travel demand.
“Should you believe the Travel Mole study, which we quoted yesterday on the situation after the election of Trump, 31 percent of British, America’s largest market in Europe, will reconsider whether they want to travel to the US..20 percent said they would not [travel to the US] as long as Trump is president. Also, British business travellers will travel less after the election. I don’t give a fig for this study. ‘We wanted so much this summer to go on a trip to San Francisco, but now we go to Portugal instead.’ Well, they do not. They live well with their US travel no matter who is president.”
Olensen suggests that if we could count on what people say they will do when asked versus what they actually do, the results of both these elections and other political processes, would be radically different. As he says, people may say they will vote one way and act another.
“It’s just a big downer. You are asked whether you go in for Trump in the US, say no, but vote yes. Are you in favor that the British should withdraw from the EU, you say no, but vote yes. Do you follow the Danish People’s Party out of EU you say no, but vote yes. ‘That’s the truth,’ to quote Margrethe Vestager in a completely different context. By contrast, for the price of the journey the impact is quite another. Even after the US elections, the dollar has not declined, but the Brexit rattled the pound down. It has given the British considerably more tourists. Both because of the price, but also because of the cheaper shopping,” Olesen says.
Nor should we expect people to behave otherwise, Olensen says, or vilify people for this.
“Is it bad or selfish? No actually not. Naturally, we pay attention to whether our life is in danger. But one must be very politically engaged before it is irrelevant who is the king or president. Or queen for that matter, as we didn’t get a female president in the United States this time around.”
Certainly, travellers will come to their own conclusions and time will tell just how right Olesen is. I know that tourism was pretty good business in Spain during Franco, as it is today, so I tend to agree with him.
The counter-argument would be that politics can create circumstances of instability which engender more acts of terrorism and negatively impact economies. Certainly security vigilance still matters, as does sound economic policy which doesn’t discourage growth in the travel sector. Those two are also the focus of day-to-day agendas for the industry regardless who is in charge.
Through highs and lows, people have travelled for thousands of years. People will travel for thousands more, assuming we’re around to do it. Travel is what humans do.
Whether they will travel to a particular country may be affected by how attractive that country makes itself to travellers, and whether what it has to offer is more valuable than the challenges and costs to get there. But the desire to travel is beyond politics, and the travel industry adapts.
I’ll also quote Olensen on his closing: “Have a good weekend.” Well, why not?