Forecast or bombast?

A story showed up in our news monitor this morning that caught my attention because at first glance it seemed to be a trend story about travel, but on closer inspection turned out to be more bombast than forecast.

The Herman Group, a management consulting firm, offered “Sharp Drop in US (sic) Tourism Forecast” as its “Herman Trend Report” of the week. Almost from the start, the “forecast” was misleading:

British tourism to the US down by 17 percent
According to the latest figures from the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics (ONS), there was a sharp drop in the number of Brits travelling to the US in January, the month when Donald Trump became President.

Overall British tourism increased—just not to the US
At the same time, the overall number of Brits going abroad jumped by 9 percent in January. In a poll conducted by Travelzoo before Trump’s election 31 percent of Brits said they would reconsider their US travel plans, if Trump were elected. In the same poll, 20 percent of respondents said they would definitely not go on vacation to the US, if Trump won.

Those stats may be true, but the piece ignores other, more important factors that are depressing U.K. travel to the United States, namely, uncertainty about Brexit and, more importantly, the weak British pound against the strong dollar. Within the travel industry, it’s a given that currency exchange rates are one of the most important influences on the decision to travel internationally, and the pound has reached a historic low against the dollar since the Brexit vote last summer.

The author, Joyce Gioia, goes on to blame Trump’s travel ban and new restrictions on electronic devices as also having an effect on international travel to the U.S. These are verifiable facts, and I have no problem with them, though Gioia doesn’t cite sources or provide links.

But Gioia’s next assertion, that Trump has “characterized China and Mexico as ‘bad hombres'” is simply not true. Trump referred to “bad hombres” in the final presidential debate and several times since, but only in the context of Mexico and illegal immigration to the U.S. from that country. She then proceeds to cite a potential trade war with China and security warnings to travelers from other countries to the U.S. due to “dangers like mass shootings, police violence, anti-Muslim, and anti-LGBT* attitudes” without citing a single source.

Gioia then goes on to make her “futurist” predictions:

We see no end in sight for the isolationist, anti-Muslim, and anti-LGBT attitudes of the Trump administration. Therefore, our forecast is that the travel and tourism of countries considered to be safer than others, especially previously less-popular destinations, will be the beneficiaries of the decrease in travel to the US. We also believe that the cruise industry will also benefit from this new environment.

Again, she cites no sources and provides no backup to her assertions. And her conclusion is a gem, as it actually takes on a biblical overtone:

World leaders, like Trump, need to be made aware of the unintended consequences of their actions, because they know not what they do.

This is all passed off as incisive analysis when it’s actually opinionated polemical politics. It’s less futurist than it is alarmist, and it shows a lack of depth of understanding of the global travel industry.

It is interesting to note that on the Herman Group’s homepage, there are bad links to the ethics policies of the National Speakers Association (which no longer has an ethics policy under its “About” tab) and to the Institute of Management Consultants’ ethics page. The IMC does provide ethics guidelines for management consultants, but they don’t include provisions about truth and accuracy.

This type of piece is almost worse than the “fake news” being promulgated to serve political agendas because it seems “future-y.” It takes current events and seems to extract larger trends from them about an industry the writer has no depth of understanding about. Gioia’s “forecast” is just a thinly veiled screed against the Trump administration. While I am not an advocate or supporter of the current administration, I am an advocate for truth and accuracy, whether it’s in in advertising, editorializing or forecasting.

In the end, however, perhaps we should forgive Joyce Gioia because it’s clear she knows not what she does.

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