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February 23, 2017

As Trump Plans New Travel Ban, GBTA Warns of Meetings Industry Impact

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A newly revised travel ban being planned by the Trump administration could have a big impact on the meetings and events industry, according to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA)

In its latest statement on the policy, the 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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