They call it the "election year curse." For reasons no one can really explain, travel declines slightly during years when the presidency is at stake. Statisticians cite the figures from the last 50 years, and whenever the nationwide election comes about, travel slows down.
Why? Are Americans so obsessed with the polls that they put off vacation travel? Depending on their political party and its prospects, do they feel a sense of anxiety that keeps them from committing for a trip? Whatever the reason, the figures so far for 2016—especially for international travel—portray a travel slowdown.
Until most recent weeks, domestic travel remained vigorous, while the slowdown was mainly experienced in the international field. Acts of terror in France, Belgium, and Turkey had a particular impact on Americans' willingness to go abroad. But more recently, domestic travel also seemed to slow, according to articles in the travel trade press, and this occurred despite the generally low prices for self-drive vacations and trips by air resulting from the low price of gasoline.
To that factor, you need to add the hesitancy to travel to areas affected by the Zika virus. Florida and the Caribbean seem mainly to suffer from fears of illness.
In this somewhat-sad picture, three destinations stand out:
First, travel to Canada has zoomed upward, mainly because of the weak Canadian dollar reducing costs (to U.S. citizens) in that nation. Recently it was announced that more than 40,000 Americans will pass through Montréal this year for a cruise vacation sailing through the St. Lawrence Seaway into New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and ending, finally, in Boston. Such locations as Prince Edward Island and Halifax are awash with American passengers. This must be explained by the weak Canadian currency for shore excursions, but also from the absence so far of any Zika-related illnesses in Canada.
Iceland, for reasons no one can explain, has zoomed upward this year in its incoming tourism. And some Icelanders are complaining that their cities, hot thermal baths, and highways are today overcrowded with tourists. While one can explain the phenomenon as resulting from the sheer attraction of Iceland's people and sights, such attractions were always present there. Why the upswing this year?
Japan is more easily explained. The Japanese currency (the Yen) is now exchanged at a favorable rate of 100 to the U.S. dollar, and Japan has become a moderately priced destination for the first time in many decades. American tourists have responded by flying there in large numbers.
But with the exception of Canada (many Canadian cruises are now sold out, even for autumn departures), Iceland, and Japan, the other domestic and international itineraries are only lightly booked. If you have not yet made your travel plans, you can now enjoy uncrowded conditions, vacancies at hotels, and empty seats on airlines to almost everywhere else. So what are you waiting for?