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Trump’s travel ban impacts air travel, threatens US tourism

On March 6, President Donald Trump signed an executive order revising the controversial travel ban he issued on Jan. 27 that banned refugees and people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the US.

The new order scales back some of the original language and restrictions, but in certain industries, the fallout could take longer to recover.

At the ITB travel fair in Berlin on Thursday, Emirates President Tim Clark revealed that the airline has seen booking rates on US flights fall by 35% since the initial ban.

“I am concerned. It’s the tone of it. We have brought millions of Muslims to the United States, but now they may not feel welcome, they may look at going on holiday elsewhere,” he said.

Competitor airline Qatar Airways said it has not experienced a drop in bookings for US flights.

According to the US Travel Association, more than 77 million people from abroad visited the US in 2015, with 38.4 million coming from overseas markets (excluding Canada and Mexico). But following January’s ban, the airline industry took a hit, with Hopper reporting that flight searches dropped as much as 17% after the original announcement.

Jonathan Grella, the executive VP of public affairs at the US Travel Association, says the administration did some good in revising the ban, but suggests that a simple gesture could do a lot to quell international uncertainty.

“The administration didn’t follow through with a balancing message including an overt welcome to legitimate travelers,” Grella told Yahoo Finance. “We have to put our best foot forward to make sure people around the world don’t get the wrong impression, or we’ll find ourselves with two problems” — a negative impact on security and prosperity.

Indeed, a sharp decrease in international travel could have a negative impact on the US economy. Currently, one out of nine jobs in the US depends on travel and tourism, and those workers earn more than $231.6 billion every year. In the first six months of 2016, international visitors spent nearly $125 billion on tourism related goods, and that spending directly supported 1.1 million jobs in the US, according to the US Travel Association. Simply put, bringing people into the US who spend money without needing our government services, like education or healthcare, is a great way to grow the economy and create jobs.

Echoing the stats from Hopper, Forward Keys, a travel tracking site, also found that international arrivals have continued to suffer after the Jan. 27 ban. On Feb. 17, when Trump announced that a revised executive order would be introduced, bookings from the seven countries in consideration fell 7% by Feb. 25. More alarmingly, bookings from other countries not mentioned in the ban also fell 4%. It’s this stat that concerns Grella.  

“To think that only the countries upset are the ones mentioned in the ban is to misunderstand the moment,” said Grella. “Undecided travelers are always making up their minds to stay home or head to a destination, and we shouldn’t give them a reason not to come.”

Grella adds that Trump’s “hospitality DNA” and career as a businessman make him uniquely positioned to understand the economic impact travel has on the US economy. “The administration might want to think about a comprehensive marketing campaign to welcome legitimate travelers to the US,” he said.

The revised executive order – which removes Iraq from the list of countries – will go into effect on March 16. The remaining six countries still include Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The revised order also exempts permanent residents and current visa holders and reversed the indefinite ban on refugees from Syria, opting instead for a 120-day free which will have to be reviewed and renewed.

Brittany is a writer at Yahoo Finance. 

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