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March 7, 2017

Meetings Mean Business: New Travel Ban Doesn’t Address Several Industry Concerns

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U.S. President Donald Trump has issued a newly revised travel ban on immigration from six Muslim-majority countries, and major meetings industry organizations are striking a cautious note on what it means for the industry. 

“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.

A Meetings Mean Business survey conducted shortly after the original ban was implemented found that the majority of meetings industry professionals were concerned the order would harm the reputation of the United States. 

“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.”

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) called the new ban an improvement, citing its narrower scope and greater clarity, but warned against any unnecessary disruptions to the travel industry.

“Any increased restrictions on passenger travel must be based in safety and security to ensure that the ability to travel is not impeded unnecessarily,” said Michael W. McCormick, GBTA executive director and CEO. “It will remain a focus of the business travel industry to hold disruptions to a minimum, and we will continue to monitor the implementation of this ban closely.”

The GBTA also said it would poll its global membership on the revised order’s impact on business travel.

U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow struck a similar note in his response.

“The American travel community supports efforts to bolster national security, and the Trump administration deserves some credit for the substantially more cautious and deliberate introduction of the revised executive order,” said Dow. “Cabinet officials were on the right track with public statements welcoming lawful visa holders into the U.S. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the administration fully seized the opportunity to differentiate between the potential security risks targeted by the order and the legitimate business and leisure visitors from abroad who support 15.1 million American jobs.”

Dow said that it remains an open question as to whether or not the revised order will mollify prospective travelers from Canada, Europe or other destinations who may have been put off by the initial ban, promising that solid data on the initial ban’s impact would become available in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, early signs of the policy’s impact are mixed. According to just-released data from the U.S. Travel Association, international travel to the United States grew 7.8 percent year over year in January, marking the eight straight year of expansion – but U.S. Travel officials were quick to caution that most of this data had been collected prior to the initial ban, which was issued January 27. Another new report from New York’s destination marketing organization, NYC & Company, claimed that the ban was hurting inbound travel to New York, with NYC & Company forecasting a 2.1 percent decline in international visitors – the first since the onset of the Great Recession in 2008.

“These restrictions are creating an image problem for many international travelers, regardless if they’re included in the ban or not,” said NYC & Company spokesperson Chris Heywood.

The new ban drops Iraq from the list of banned countries, 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.

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About the Author: Adam Leposa





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