Global uncertainty and the effects of President Donald Trump’simmigration policy may be suppressing bookings from abroad, slashing costs for U.S. travelers seeking the best international deals.
Trump’s hardline stance on immigration has led to a decrease in total bookings to the United States, according to data from travel intelligence company ForwardKeys, with flights from the seven countries listed in the president’s original travel ban down 80 percent.
Fewer Americans are looking to head abroad, as well. Searches for international flights from the U.S. have decreased since Trump’s January inauguration, according to data that price-tracking site Hopper collected for CNBC. This time last year, searches were on an upswing, the site said, which suggests the change is more than seasonal.
Experts say the decline in travel has contributed to better deals for consumers looking to venture abroad.
Flights to destinations in Western and Northern Europe are 15 percent cheaper compared to last year. France, the United Kingdom, and Nordic countries like Sweden, Finland, and Norway can now be visited for a fraction of the usual airfare, according to Hopper.
The app found deals including $388 on a round-trip flight between New York and Stockholm, Sweden, and a $738 round-trip flight between Atlanta and London runs $735.
Travelers hoping to go abroad this year also have the advantage of a stronger U.S. dollar. The pound-U.S. dollar exchange rate is now $1.25, down from $1.43 last year, while against the euro trades around $1.07, down from $1.10, according to data from FactSet.
“Europe looks like the big bargain this year,” Patrick Surry, chief data scientist of Hopper, told CNBC via email. He attributes the price drop to a combination of low fuel prices, increased competition and a lack of demand for Europe-bound flights.
With that impact on hotel rates and other on-the-ground expenses, travelers could see big savings. The average cost of a trip to the U.K. during the summer and fall seasons is expected to drop by 7 percent this year compared to the same seasons last year, according to figures from Squaremouth, a travel insurance comparison website.
Squaremouth anticipates the average cost of a trip to Germany will be 13 percent lower than 2016. Travel to Italy could be nearly 10 percent less, and France, 6 percent cheaper.
Chart: Searches in flights from the U.S. to international destinations compared with political events from Hopper
But not every destination is less expensive. Flights to South America are 20 percent pricier compared to last year, Hopper found. And the average cost of a trip to Finland is expected to rise 13 percent, according to Squaremouth.
With oil on the decline for the last several years, airlines saving on the cost of fuel are passing these benefits to consumers, said Surry.
Meanwhile, the rise of ultra-low-cost carriers like Iceland’s WOW Airlines and Norwegian Air are pushing down market prices, forcing other carriers to offer limited-time promotions and fare sales. WOW airlines, for example, offers a round-trip flight from New York to Edinburgh, Scotland for $190 with stopovers, compared to an $800 nonstop offer from United for similar dates.
“I’ve been in this for years and I’ve never seen fares this low.”
Still, a seemingly endless stream of bad news out of Europe — from Brexit to the refugee crisis to the recent London attack — has depressed demand for travel to the region, Surry added.
“It’s not completely rational,” he said. “But it means that people are considering alternative destinations.”
George Hobica, editor of Airfare Watchdog, said airlines are pulling out all the stops to entice travelers. His site collates cheap travel deals from around the web, for instance a recent $778 Newark to Tokyo round tripoffered by Delta and a $629 Atlanta to Athens round trip with Turkish Airlines.
“I’ve been in this for years and I’ve never seen fares this low,” said Hobica.