Travel agencies note US election tourism trend
Airlines operating out of Sweden have seen a spike in US ticket sales as large numbers of Swedes have gone over to America for Election Day.
According to Ticket - Sweden's largest private travel agency - the number of departures went up by 45 percent in the first eight days of November, compared to the same period last year.
Karin Starkman Ahlstedt, head of communications at Ticket, says other events may have contributed to the spike in US-bound tourism, but, she insists, the election is the biggest factor by far.
The New York Marathon, last week's autumn school break in Sweden and the cold weather are other factors that make the US a particularly attractive destination this time of year, but those are recurring events, Starkman Ahlstedt points out.
"That happens every year so it shouldn't affect the statistics so much... Most of the increase this year is definitely an effect of the election," Starkman Ahlstedt tells Radio Sweden.
But while Starkman Ahlstedt believes US election tourism is definitely a thing this year, Lina Eklund, a PR officer at the Resia Travel Group, is more cautious.
Resia has seen a 23-percent rise this year in bookings for US-bound flights departing in the first week of November, but Eklund points out that most are headed to Florida and California, which are usually popular winter destinations anyway.
"So it could also just be because people travel to Florida during this time and also to California," says Eklund.
Among the many Swedes who have gone over to the States to be there for Election Day is Angeli Sjöström Hederberg, a self-employed entrepreneur who is traveling around the US with a group of Swedish Hillary Clinton supporters. She is there to experience what she feels is a historic moment.
"I think I am part of a historic moment by being here. Of course, I'm priviliged. I'm traveling around, I'm meeting all these activists and politicians and researchers and so on, but it's a very special feeling. I mean, I saw Hillary when she was on stage with Beyoncé and Jay-Z and it was a special moment," says Sjöström Hederberg on the phone from Columbus, Ohio.
While the US election is apparently a pull factor for Swedes, what happens afterwards is uncertain. The travel industry is concerned that a Donald Trump presidency could lead to a slump in Swedish tourism to the US.
"We definitely see more bookings towards the USA but, also, when we speak to our customers it seems that if Donald Trump wins the election, people will think in different ways and travel in different ways," says Eklund.
Those concerns are borne out by a poll conducted on behalf of travel agency Ticket earlier this month, where 30 percent of respondents said a Trump win would make them less keen to travel to the States.
Only one percent said they would be more up for visiting the US if Trump becomes president. A Hillary Clinton win, however, would be safer as far as the tourism industry is concerned.
"Five percent of Swedes say they will increase their travel to the USA if Hillary Clinton wins," says Starkman Ahlstedt.