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We’re seeing 'bullishness' in US tourism despite Trump travel ban, says IHG chief

An employee passes a logo in the reception area of InterContinental Hotels Group's headquarters in Denham, U.K.
Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images
An employee passes a logo in the reception area of InterContinental Hotels Group's headquarters in Denham, U.K.

There's a degree of optimism in the U.S. travel market despite the bumpy political backdrop of recent months, the chief executive of British hotel giant, IHG, told CNBC on Tuesday.

Richard Solomons was speaking at the International Hotels Investment Forum in Berlin the day after the news that U.S. President Donald Trump had revised his controversial travel ban against citizens from Muslim-majority nations to give it a greater chance of pushing through the national court system.

The new executive order retains a 90-day ban on travel to the U.S. by citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen but now only targets those who are new visa applicants and also removes Iraq from the list.

The CEO of the group, which counts brands including InterContinental Hotels and Crowne Plaza under its umbrella, said that U.S. politics had not yet seemed to have impacted business negatively.

"Not so far, it's not something we've seen yet and I guess we'll have to see what happens over time. For us and actually for a lot of the travel industry we are a very domestic business…So these things could have an effect but what could have a bigger effect actually is how fast the economy grows," Solomons told CNBC, adding that the optimism wasn't confined to North America.

"Fundamentally, not just in the U.S. but also in China actually and to some extent here in Europe, we're seeing quite a lot of bullishness and we're signing literally more deals that we have done since 2008," he revealed.

The hotelier also shrugged off concerns over rising global inflation, and particularly the evolution of that trend within IHG's domestic market.

"The hotel industry historically has performed quite well in times of inflation… generally if you've got a good brand and you've got good systems and you're delivering a good experience you can actually move prices ahead of inflation which is what we've done…Fundamentally it absolutely comes down to not being a commoditized hotel," he posited.

Yet he sounded a more cautious note on another hot domestic topic – the U.K.'s impending exit from the European Union (EU) – saying that while losing all of the non-U.K. European citizens who live and work in the country wouldn't be a "disaster", it would "certainly be a difficult thing".

"It would not be a good thing at all for many reasons, not least for our business but I think we have ways to try and mitigate it. Hopefully we'll get something sensible sorted out for those people who work for us all around the U.K.," Solomons said, before finishing on a more positive note.

"Like many others we've talked with government through associations and directly and certainly I'm relatively optimistic they're keen to work something out and hopefully they will."

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