After Travel Ban Decision, ASTA Calls for Welcoming Message on U.S. Travel

Following Tuesday’s decision by the Supreme Court upholding President Donald Trump’s travel ban, the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has joined other travel industry organizations in calling for a message welcoming travelers to the United States

“ASTA is currently reviewing the Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding President Trump’s Executive Order – which has been in effect since December 2017 pending a final court decision – with an eye toward assisting travel agents comply with it,” ASTA EVP of Advocacy Eben Peck tells Travel Agent. “As it is imperative that the traveling public maintain confidence in an industry so vital to our nation’s economy, we ask that the Administration set clear implementation guidelines in short order such that travel disruptions are kept to an absolute minimum. 

“At the same time, we align with the sentiment expressed by the U.S. Travel Association and other industry leaders that an overt message welcoming legitimate international travelers to the United States should accompany any security steps aimed at terrorists and those who overstay their visas,” Peck said. 

Yesterday the U.S. Travel Association had said that the administration should make it clear that travelers are welcome in the United States. 

“Now that the U.S. court system has set guidelines for the president's executive orders on immigration, we are hopeful that a coherent and durable set of policies can be put into place by the administration,” said U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President for Public Affairs Jonathan Grella in a statement provided to Travel Agent. "Today's decision should enable the White House to move on to a new messaging phase: making it clear that keeping bad actors out remains a priority, but making it equally clear that legitimate business and leisure travelers are as welcome and desired as ever in the United States.

In terms of business travel, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) warned that the decision to uphold the ban could have a negative impact on inbound U.S. travel and the overall economy. 

“It cannot be denied that the cumulative impact of the travel bans over the past 18 months has been felt by our industry,” said Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Executive Director and COO Michael W. McCormick. “The initial reaction alone to the first travel ban issued by the Administration was swift and strong – more than $185 million in business travel bookings were lost in one week.”

Even as the ban continued into its second and third iterations, it continued to have an impact on inbound U.S. travel. According to a poll of GBTA members conducted last week, 23 percent of U.S. travel buyers reported that the ban has driven at least some level of reduction in their company’s travel, McCormick said. Additionally, 37 percent expect some level of reduction going forward because of today’s ruling to uphold the ban.

McCormick shared some further insights from that survey on the impact of the Supreme Court decision:

  • 52 percent of U.S travel buyers reported concerns of increased traveler harassment in general
  • 40 percent worry about a reduction in business travel to the United States
  • 64 said countries might respond by making travel more difficult for U.S. travelers
  • 56 percent said it might result in complications in travel to the United States
  • 51 said it might result in increased threats against U.S. travelers abroad
  • 36 percent said it could result in cancelled projects or contracts between U.S. and foreign companies

“Perhaps most strikingly, 62 percent of U.S. buyers believe this Administration is having a negative impact on business travel,” McCormick said. “For every one percent decrease in business travel spending, the U.S. economy loses 74,000 jobs, $5.5 billion in GDP, $3.3 billion in wages and $1.3 billion in taxes.”

In a separate poll of its European members, the GBTA also found that 31 percent of European travel buyers have seen some level of reduction in their company’s travel due to the policy, while 38 percent say it has reduced their willingness to plan meetings and events in the United States. 

“GBTA is deeply concerned about the long-term impact of these survey results, and the global perception of doing business with the United States,” McCormick warned. “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, and as the United States changes its policies about inbound travel, others are likely to do the same.”

In Tuesday’s decision the Supreme Court upheld the travel ban in a 5-4 vote along partisan lines, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the majority. Roberts found that the ban was within the scope of presidential authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The Supreme Court has allowed full enforcement of the current version of the travel ban since December, when it issued an order allowing the policy to go through ahead of its hearing the case. This latest version of the travel ban is the third iteration of the policy, which was issued in late September. It applies to North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia, dropping Sudan, which had been included in earlier versions of the order. Chad was also removed from the travel ban in April after officials in the Trump administration said it had “improved its identity-management and information sharing practices.”

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