Presidential Holidays: How Travel Destinations Can Polish a Presidency

It’s been a tough week for President Obama’s public relations team. A series of family holidays have been turned into a political talking point, with opponents of the government claiming that overseas travel is not a major priority during a recession. It’s an interesting event for the travel industry, with the value of a Presidential visit often bringing millions of dollars to the regions involved.

Michelle Obama’s holiday in Spain cost the country less than many of its past leaders have spent during their vacation periods, although the perceived ‘luxury’ of travelling outside the country is likely to make the holiday appear more expensive. Most ‘first families’ have made a habit out of holidaying within the United States, due to its economic benefits and perceived level of frugality.

Former President W. Bush preferred to relax within the country’s borders, spending more time on his Texas ranch than any leader before him. Previous leaders have shared similar vacation desires, with Ronald Reagan typically spending his holiday time at his California retreat home. Overseas holidays are rare for the country’s leader, although they can help the travel industry’s growth.

What’s missing from the debate about Presidential holidays is the amount of media coverage that it generated, not just inside the United States, but outside. The First Lady’s travel party was followed for the entire trip, exposing millions of Americans to the Spanish travel industry and bringing the two nations closer together, albeit passively.

That is the true influence that world leaders can deploy in their vacation choices – an influence that some travel industry experts believe can inject millions of dollars into an area’s tourism economy. A singly trip with so much financial impact? It’s a wonder so few countries are investing in influential advertising campaigns, aiming to position themselves as a mecca for stately travel and tourism.