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February 27, 2017

Reports Say New Travel Ban to Come Wednesday

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President Donald Trump could issue a revised travel ban targeting seven Muslim-majority countries Wednesday, a senior administration official told the Associated Press, one day after the President address lawmakers at a joint session of Congress. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the rollout of the revised order, insisted on anonymity. 

Earlier reports had indicated that the new executive order would target the same seven Muslim-majority countries as the original travel ban -- Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya — with some minor changes from the original policy, including an exemption for travelers who already have U.S. visas, green card holders and dual U.S. citizens. 

The report comes following by an effort by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly at Sunday’s annual National Governors Association meeting to assure the nation’s state governors that the ban wouldn’t target Muslims. 

“Gen. Kelly spelled out it's not about religion, it's not even about nation of origin," Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told CNN, noting that the Obama administration had placed restrictions on travelers from the seven nations targeted by the original ban before. 

At the same time, on CBS’s “Face the Nation” former CIA Director John Brennan said that the ban was not a good solution to combating terrorism. 

"I don't think the travel ban is going to help in any significant way," Brennan said. “It may sound good to have a ban against individuals coming from certain countries, but you really need to take a look at what is truly going to mitigate the nature of the -- and the scope of the terrorist threat that we face."

The discussion followed Friday’s leak of an analysis by the Department of Homeland Security casting doubt on the travel ban’s effectiveness in improving national security. According to a draft of the report obtained by the Associated Press, analysts found that citizenship in the seven countries targeted by the ban is an “unlikely indicator” of terrorism threats, and that few people from the targeted countries have carried out attacks or been involved in terrorism-related activities. The report found that, of the 82 people the government had determined were inspired by a foreign terrorist group to carry out or attempt attacks in the United States, over half were U.S. citizens born in the country, while the other were from 26 nations — only two of which, Somalia and Iraq, were included in the ban. One person each from Iran, Sudan and Yemen were also involved in those terrorism cases, but none from Syria. Administration officials responded that the report was incomplete and did not include data from other intelligence sources. 

In its latest statement on the policy, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) noted that it had reported a loss of approximately $185 million in business travel bookings in the week immediately following the original ban due to a “rippling effect” on traveler confidence. 

“The current state of uncertainty over the travel ban could cause a similar impact on business travel,” the GBTA said.

The GBTA noted that in its 2016 Q4 GBTA BTI U.S. Business Travel Outlook, released just after Donald Trump’s election but before he took office, the organization forecast a 4.4 percent increase in business gravel spending in 2017, following a 0.2 percent drop in 2016. The GBTA said that that prediction is “now very much in jeopardy,” especially if business travel continues to see losses like those in the week following the travel ban.

“The ultimate concern is that the lasting impact of the travel ban, and any future appeals around it, could cause other countries beyond just those named in the ban to think twice about planning meetings and events in the United States,” the GBTA said. “This could create a huge impact.”

In an interview with Fox News Wednesday, White House policy adviser Stephen Miller said that the Trump administration could release a revised travel ban next week. While he promised that the new executive order would be “fully responsive to the courts,” Miller said that the changes in the order would be “mostly minor technical differences.”

“Fundamentally you’re going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country,” Miller said.

The comments track with an earlier report that the new executive order would target the same seven Muslim-majority countries as the original travel ban -- Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya. One draft described by the Associated Press earlier this week exempts travelers who already have a visa to travel to the United States, even if they haven’t used it yet, as well as green card holders and dual U.S. citizens.

The move will aim to continue a policy that triggered travel delays and protests at airports across the United States when it was first implemented, as well as a range of commentary from the travel and events industry.

Shortly following the announcement of the ban, meetings industry association UFI had released a statement calling for freedom to travel

“International exhibitions rely on the free exchange of goods and ideas, and on business people from all around the world having access to these unique market places,” said Dr. Andreas Gruchow, president of UFI, said in a written release. “Most leading exhibition markets aim to become ever more international to serve these needs, and to grow as businesses. As countless impact studies show, this growth hugely benefits local, regional and national economies, who benefit from the direct business that exhibitors and attendees bring to town. Exhibitions are not only good businesses - they are also an enormous catalyst for economic growth.”

“As the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, UFI is always promoting free exchange of ideas and travel for mutual benefit,” said Dr. Gruchow. “As an industry, we are representing billions of USD in direct and indirect economic investments. We call upon associations and businesses in our industry to also make their voices heard on this matter, and we stand ready to support them through activities like ‘Global Exhibitions Day’ on June 7.”

The International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) also issued a statement expressing concern over the policy’s effect on the industry

“The global exhibitions industry contributes more than $200 billion to world economies, with roughly $77 billion contributed to the U.S. GDP annually,” said Ryan Strowger, CEM, chair of IAEE and SVP of exhibitions, conferences and sales with the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA). “Furthermore, more than 42 million visitors attend 9,400+ business-to-business exhibitions and events in the U.S. alone and IAEE members and stakeholders are rightfully concerned about the long-term ramifications of restrictions placed on global travelers coming to the U.S.”

U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow had said that, while his organization recognizes the need to maintain national security, the order could hurt business and leisure travel to the United States.

"Over the past two weeks, our members have voiced their concerns about how an unintended consequence of this executive order could be a reduction in both international leisure and business travel to the United States,” Dow said. “Destinations large and small depend on these visitors to sustain local businesses and jobs.

"That said, we stand with the administration, Congress and law enforcement officials, as we all remain vigilant during an era of constantly changing global security dynamics,” Dow said. “As always, we believe in striking a balance that places a premium on both security and our nation’s history as a welcoming place for travelers from around the globe."

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