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March 9, 2017

45 Percent of GBTA Members Less Willing to Plan U.S. Meetings After New Travel Ban

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45 percent of Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) members said that their company would be less willing to plan future meetings and events in the United States in the GBTA’s first poll following the release of U.S. President Donald Trump’s newly revised executive oder banning travel from six Muslim-majority countires. 

The GBTA polled its U.S. and European members in the wake of the release of the revised ban, which drops Iraq from the list of affected counties, instead applying to Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya – the other six countries from the original list. The new order also suspends the United States’ refugee program for 120 days, and lowers the cap on refugees from 110,000 to 50,000 per year.

Other changes: travelers from the affected countries who are legal permanent residents of the United States, dual nationals who use a passport from another country and those who have been granted asylum or refugee status are exempt from the new order. Additionally, current visa holders will be able to get into the country, although those whose visas expire will have to reapply.

According to the GBTA poll, nearly four in 10 (37 percent) of U.S. business travel professionals expect “some level of reduction” in their company’s travel as a result of the revised policy. More European travel professionals felt that the ban would impact their companies’ travel, with 47 percent expecting some level of reduction and 17 percent reporting that their company has already cancelled business travel to the United States because of the order. Additionally, 38 percent of European business travel agents said that their companies would be less willing to send business travelers to the United States in the future because of the executive order.

“There is always the risk that closing our borders sends the message that the United States is closed for business, and the results of this poll show the perception of the United States as a welcoming destination for business travel has been altered,” said Michael W. McCormick in a written release. “As we always say, security is paramount, but GBTA continues to be a proponent for expanding proven security programs and developing new technology to facilitate information-sharing among governments to ensure travelers are always vetted properly, making us all more safe and secure.”

The report also found that 44 percent of European business travel agents said that their organization currently has employees traveling abroad who might be or are affected by the ban, and 20 percent of European agents reported that there are directives within their organization to cancel or delay the travel of employees who are nationals of countries included in the ban. 

Some agents said that other countries might respond to the ban by making travel more difficult for U.S. travelers (51 percent) or adding complications for travel to the U.S. (44 percent). 41 percent felt that the policy might result in increased threats against U.S> travelers abroad. All three numbers were down from the GBTA’s previous poll on the first travel ban, when they were at 63 percent, 56 percent and 54 percent respectively.

In terms of support, 52 percent of travel professionals surveyed strongly or somewhat oppose the order, while 35 percent strongly or somewhat support it, compared to 50 percent and 38 percent in the initial poll. 

Top concerns on the ban’s impact on respondents travelers were increased traveler harassment in general (41 percent), uncertainty regarding green card and approved visa credibility to enter the United States (34 percent), and harassment of U.S. travelers to and from the Middle East (34 percent). 34 percent, however, didn’t share any of the concerns listed. 

In terms of other industry organizations, the Meetings Mean Business (MMB) coalition has said that the revised order doesn’t address several meetings industry concerns

“We recognize the substantially more cautious and deliberate introduction of the revised executive order on travel and immigration, however, several of the industry’s initial concerns remain unaddressed,” said Meetings Mean Business (MMB) co-chairs Richard Harper and Paul Van Deventer in a written statement. “Our industry is centered on bringing people together, fostering relationships, driving positive outcomes, and supporting communities where meetings and events are held,” said Harper and Van Deventer. “We reiterate our belief that striking the right balance between enhanced security and travel facilitation is of the utmost importance. We also continue to urge that the security reviews prescribed by the executive orders be concluded as quickly as possible.”

Legal Challenge in Hawaii

Meanwhile, Hawaii has become the first U.S. state to file a lawsuit to stop the revised travel ban. Attorneys for the state filed a lawsuit against the executive order Wednesday in federal court in Honolulu.

"This new executive order is nothing more than Muslim Ban 2.0," said Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin in a written release. "Under the pretense of national security, it still targets immigrants and refugees. It leaves the door open for even further restrictions. Our office is reviewing the new order and will decide what next steps may be necessary."

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About the Author: Adam Leposa





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