Wednesday, 1 February 2017

USA: Trump Travel Ban Sparked Confusion, Chaos And Protests At Airports, Will Negatively Affect Tourism

President Trump's ban on travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries could have a chilling effect on U.S. tourism, global business and enrollment in American universities, say a cross-section of legal experts and travel advocates.

While the orders are temporary, these voices say the policy could have a long-term impact.

“There’s a real potential negative impact, even after the 90- or 120-period is over, from a travel point of view,” said Thomas M. McDonnell, a professor at Pace University’s law school, who is an expert in international law. “If you were a Muslim from Saudi Arabia, which is not included in the list, you might say, ‘Gee, should I really go to the U.S. with Trump as president? Who knows what might happen.’”

Trump's sweeping executive order suspends U.S. refugee resettlement for 120 days and halts anyone traveling from Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen from entering the United States for the next 90 days.

The administration says the move will allow them to review and establish stronger vetting standards in an effort to beef up travel security and prevent terrorists from infiltrating the U.S. Officials also argue that those directly affected by the ban reflect a small minority.

The seven countries outlined in the executive order don’t crack the top 20 travel markets to the United States, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

But the ban sparked confusion, chaos and protests at airports over the weekend, creating uncertainty throughout the travel industry.

Tourism and travel advocacy groups say it’s too early to quantify the actual impact of the executive order, but acknowledge it’s important to strike a balance between security and free travel.

“In this case, it’s a limited universe of people directly affected, but carries with it not inconsequential fall-out potential when it comes to reputational risk and sending an unintended message,” said Jonathan Grella, executive vice president of public affairs for the U.S. Travel Association.

“People will be understanding and forgiving when security is your motivation, but if they are left with other takeaways that leave the impression that they’re not welcome here, than that’s obviously a different story.”

Trump’s new policy prevents immigration and non-immigration visa holders from those seven countries from entering the United States for the next 90 days, which McDonnell said includes those wanting to travel to the U.S. to visit their family or conduct business trips.

An Oscar-winning Iranian film director who directed a movie nominated again this year, for example, would not be able to attend the Oscars unless provided with an exception.

“If you’re from Iraq and you want to visit your family here during this period for a few weeks or a month, there’s absolutely no way you’re going to be able to get in,” McDonnell said.

“Let’s say you’re a business person - and there’s lots of business between the U.S. and Iraq - if you’re not an American citizen or green card holder, you’re not going to be able to come in.”

Dubai-based Emirates airline has had to adjust which employees it puts on U.S.-bound flights in order to comply with the new restrictions. Airline stocks plunged more than 4 percent Monday in the wake of the ban.

The impact of the executive order could be more far-reaching, though.

Foreign students may be discouraged to enroll in American universities amid the uncertainty. Several colleges are advising foreign students and scholars who might be impacted by the ban to avoid traveling outside of the U.S. until there is more clarity about the policy.

And industries that have a diverse workforce, particularly in technology, transportation and healthcare, may see their foreign workers decline in the future. Multiple news outlets reported that nearly 200 Google employees belong to countries included in the ban, with Google CEO Sundar Pichai expressing concern it will create obstacles to bringing good talent to the U.S.

“I’m concerned about the economic ramifications across our economy, from tech to travel to agriculture and our defense industry,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said. “They’re all potentially at risk.”

Some advocates worry that the executive order will make the visa process slower, since Trump suspended a program allowing some applicants to get a temporary visa without a formal interview.

Experts also say it’s possible that countries affected by the ban could impose similar restrictions on the U.S. in retaliation, thus creating hurdles for American tourists and visitors hoping to travel abroad as well.

“It’s going to have long-term, negative consequences for business, tourism and students,” McDonnell said. “It creates a lot of uncertainty… and it affects our reputation in the Islamic world.”