Coping with Trump's war on travel


Istanbul's Blue Mosque

When Donald Trump took office last January, many of us were asking ourselves how his policies might affect travel for Americans abroad.

Nine months later, we have some answers. 

Our dollars are worth less against almost every major currency. 

Travel to Cuba has been restricted. That country along with 40 others, including Mexico, Egypt, Jordon, Colombia and parts of Israel, have been hit with U.S. government travel warnings advising Americans to stay away.   

And the latest: U.S. citizens can no longer get a visa to enter Turkey, disrupting travel plans for thousands, and leaving tourists, business travelers, tour operators, airlines and cruise lines in limbo when it comes to future plans.

What might be next is anyone's guess. In the meantime, here's a rundown on where things stand in the immediate future.

Turkey

Turkey's decision to stop issuing visas to American travelers either in-person on arrival or online through it's e-visa program, came in direct response to a move by the U.S. to suspend the issuing of visas for Turkish citizens hoping to visit or study in the United States after Turkey arrested a U.S. consulate employee on allegations of espionage. The U.S. suspension followed a March travel warning, reissued in late September, recommending Americans citizens carefully consider the need to travel to Turkey. By the time you read this, the latest spat may have ended, but until then, and perhaps after, due to the possibility of this happening again, we will have no choice.  

This is sad, because Turkey is one of the most fascinating places in the world to visit. More than 37,000 U.S. nationals traveled to Turkey in 2016, a drop from the 88,000 visitors in 2015, a change that can be attributed to the coup attempt and security crackdown in Turkey last year when many cruise lines and U.S. tour operators cancelled trips. 

Tour operators and airlines are coming up with refund policies to help Americans who had already booked trips. Intrepid Travel said travelers booked on coming trips who are affected by the visa suspension will be issued refunds or can use their deposit toward another tour.



The dollar

The U.S. dollar, long a symbol of American economic might, has fallen steadily since Trump took office.

As of August, the value of the dollar index, which tracks the dollar against six major global currencies, had fallen about 10% since January. Europe's political and economic problems apparently haven't outweighed the effect chaos and uncertainty in U.S. In January, the dollar exchange rate against the euro was $1.06. Today's it's $1.17.

Cuba

The State Department has issuing a travel warning, urging Americans not to travel to Cuba after 21 U.S. diplomats and family members became ill after a string of mysterious attacks. No tourists were affected, and no other major country has issued a similar warning.

The travel warning has created plenty of confusion and resulted in some cancellations of planned trips to Cuba, but RESPECT (Responsible Ethical Cuba Travel), an association of 150 travel agencies, tour operators and others who provide travel services to Cuba, told the Miami Herald that the warning is unjustified and its members are continuing to organize trips to Cuba.

“This is just not a question of travelers’ safety,” said Bob Guild, co-coordinator of RESPECT and vice president of Marazul Charters, which organizes group tours and individual travel to Cuba. He told the Herald that so far this year there have been 500,000 U.S. visitors to Cuba, including Cuban Americans. “None of them, to the best of my knowledge, has experienced similar health issues. The State Department warning is a political warning, not a health warning.”

The warning comes on top of new restrictions the Trump administration placed on Americans travesl earlier in the year, forcing most to go on expensive group tours instead of traveling independently as people from most other countries freely do.

Other countries

Consult the U.S state department's long list of advice on travel elsewhere, then check to see what Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia are telling their citizens. Official government travel  warnings can sometimes impact travel insurance coverage, so be sure to check on coverage details before buying a policy. 

Where to go?

Donald Trump's idea of "foreign travel" might be a quick hop to Puerto Rico followed by a golf game in New Jersey, but that doesn't mean the rest of us have to buy into false fears. Exercise caution, just as anyone visiting the U.S. should be doing right now. Change plans when it makes sense, but by all means, keep on traveling.

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