President Trump’s revised travel ban, which temporarily bars travel to the US for certain citizens of six-predominately Muslim countries and temporarily suspends the US refugee program, goes into effect this week on March 16. The travel bans, in addition to disrupting the lives of many innocent immigrants and refugees, have negatively impacted air travel to the US and threaten US tourism, many leading travel industry authorities and leaders say.
Emirates President Tim Clark says that the airline saw booking rates on US flights fall by thirty-five percent since the initial ban. “I am concerned,” he says. “It’s the tone of it. We have brought millions of Muslims to the United States, but now they may not feel welcome, they may look at going on holiday elsewhere.”
According to the US Travel Association, in 2015 more than 77 million people from abroad visited the US, with 38.4 million coming from overseas. Following January’s ban, flight searches dropped as much as seventeen percent. Jonathan Grella, the executive VP of public affairs at the US Travel Association, says the Trump administration’s revised ban is an improvement, but suggests a simple gesture could help ease many international travelers’ concerns. “The administration didn’t follow through with a balancing message including an overt welcome to legitimate travelers,” Grella tells Yahoo Finance. “We have to put our best foot forward to make sure people around the world don’t get the wrong impression[.]”
Many tourism experts are concerned that a sharp decrease in international travel could have a negative impact on the US economy. One out of nine jobs in the US depends on travel and tourism, with these workers earning more than $231.6 billion every year. Businesses could be severely affected as well. The US Travel Association reports that in the first six months of 2016, international visitors spent nearly $125 billion on tourism-related goods, with that spending directly supporting 1.1 million jobs in the US. The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) estimates that $185 million in business travel bookings were lost in the week following the executive order “due to a lack of traveler confidence.”
Forward Keys, a travel tracking site, found that international arrivals suffered after the original January 27 ban. Additionally, on February 17, when President Trump announced that a revised executive order would be forthcoming, bookings from the seven countries included in the ban fell seven percent by February 25, and bookings from other countries not included fell by four percent. “To think that only the countries upset are the ones mentioned in the ban is to misunderstand the moment,” Grella says. “Undecided travelers are always making up their minds to stay home or head to a destination, and we shouldn’t give them a reason not to come.”
After the initial ban, Bloomberg surveyed economists and two thirds said the ban would have "little to no effect" on the 2017 gross domestic product, although most correctly predicted that the ban would not hold up in court. One economist, Tom Fullerton, an economics professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, was more concerned about President Trump’s belief in protectionism, warning: "Raising protectionist barriers and/or withdrawing from Nafta could easily cause a re-birth of stagflation due to ensuing supply chain disruptions."
Grella has his own suggestion: “The administration might want to think about a comprehensive marketing campaign to welcome legitimate travelers to the US.”