Nfld. & Labrador

Newfoundlanders questioning American travel and support following Trump's election

Two western Newfoundlanders who regularly visit the United States say the election of Donald Trump has changed how they feel about going there.
Jonathan Clarke, seen here during a 2006 trip to see his favourite NFL team, the New Orleans Saints, says he might see his team play less often now that Donald Trump has been elected president. (Submitted by Jonathan Clarke)

Two western Newfoundlanders who regularly visit the United States say the election of Donald Trump has changed how they feel about going there.

Restaurateur Donna Thistle of Corner Brook says she'll stay away — and she'll avoid buying American products if she can.

The actions of Trump on the campaign and since his election, especially regarding immigration, have been "heartbreaking and disappointing," said Thistle, who typically visits the U.S. two or three times a year to go skiing or conduct business.

The whole country had this cloud hanging over it, that things had changed and not necessarily for the better.- Jonathan Clarke

Thistle said she was inspired by Globe and Mail columnist Linwood Barclay, who holds dual American–Canadian citizenship and cancelled a book tour to the U.S.

"I thought, if everybody took a small position on what they could do to protest the things going on in the U.S. we don't like, wouldn't the world possibly be a different place?" she said.

Thistle said she's sized up the immigration and travel bans that Trump has brought in, and that's made her think about friends and neighbours in her own community who would be barred from the States.

"If they can't do it [travel to the the U.S.], why should I?" she said.

'I'll do what I can'

Thistle is also voting with her grocery cart. She went shopping in Corner Brook for dinner ingredients and tried to skip items that came from American companies.

"All I had to get from the U.S. was a package of green onions," she said. "I had no trouble cooking Sunday dinner from Atlantic Canada."

Donna Thistle, seen here vacationing in Utah, says she's now rethinking any plans to travel to, or purchase goods from, the United States. (Submitted by Donna Thistle)

Thistle said that it'll be harder to avoid buying American ingredients for her restaurant Gitanos — or to skip buying American-made building materials for the accommodations she is having built. 

"I'll do what I can and compromise when I have to," she said.

NFL fan Jonathan Clarke of Corner Brook says he's thinking about how often he'll go from now on, if at all.

President Donald Trump signs his controversial executive order to impose tighter vetting of travellers entering the U.S. (Reuters)

Clarke likes to see his favourite team, the New Orleans Saints, play at their home field or on the road.

But the election of Trump has changed the atmosphere of the country, said Clarke.

A 'surreal' experience

He was in San Francisco on election night and said it was a "surreal" experience.

"It was almost as if Santa Claus had been assassinated," said Clarke.

I think if anything's affecting travel to the U.S., it would be the economy or the dollar.- Scott Stone

He also stopped in New Orleans, and while he didn't experience negativity from anyone in the U.S., witness any protests or feel in danger, he said, "The whole country had this cloud hanging over it, that things had changed and not necessarily for the better."

Clarke even debated coming home early, but it would have been too expensive to change his travel plans, so he stayed.

While he enjoys visits to the southern U.S. to get away from the Newfoundland snow, Clarke said he'll consider visiting other warmer countries instead.

Not really a problem?

But Scott Stone, chief operating officer of Universal Travel, said Trump's election hasn't so far proved to deter Newfoundlanders and Labradorians from traveling to the United States.

Protesters at the Miami International Airport demonstrate Jan. 29 against President Donald Trump's executive order that clamps down on refugee admissions and temporarily restricting travellers from seven predominantly Muslim countries. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

"I can't say that it's really affected travel to the U.S.," he said. "I think if anything's affecting travel to the U.S., it would be the economy or the dollar."

Stone said events like the shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport in January dampened travel to the U.S. more than the political climate at any given time.

"There's always going to be something," he said.

"What I tell travelers to do is to be alert. If there's some destination where there's some kind of unknown or uncertainty, then obviously I would recommend that they not go there."

Used to heading to Florida

Stone said given the number of people from this province who regularly visit Florida, it's unlikely the numbers will drop.

"There's probably always some hesitation there, but it's not going stop," he said.

Many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians find refuge in Florida during the winter months. (CBC )

"Especially Newfoundlanders. I don't think that's going to stop them from going to Florida, where they're used to going."

In the meantime, he said it's too soon to tell if Trump's presidency will chill enthusiasm for travel to America.

"He's not even in his hundred days. As time goes on, maybe thing will change and we'll be having a different conversation," he said.

"But I think now, because certain things that he's changing, of course there's going to put some alarm bells up there."

With files from Daniel MacEachern