LAST weekend, US President Donald Trump issued an executive order to suspend entry of all refugees for 120 days; ban Syrian refugees indefinitely; and block entry for citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Syria for 90 days.
However, the impact of the order also caused many green card and visa holders to be questioned and deported at American customs and border control offices, causing protest, confusion, and outrage across many states.
Asian Correspondent reported: “According to one Homeland Security official quoted in CNN, green card holders returning to the US would be granted re-entry, provided they make it through additional screening and national security checks upon landing.”
The move also incited condemn from leaders of many nations around the world who criticized the Trump administration’s suspicion of people purely by faith.
Despite the initial shake-up, the controversial order will surely have an impact on tourism, whether in America or in Asia.
Many airlines caught in the sudden ban have been forced to significantly alter security measures and deny boarding to what could be millions of people around the world for the next three months.
For instance, Emirates was forced to change pilot and crew rosters over the weekend to comply with the latest requirements.
An airline spokeswoman told Reuters: “The recent change to the U.S. entry requirements for nationals of seven countries applies to all travelers and flight operations crew. We have made the necessary adjustments to our crewing.”
Emirates, the world’s largest long-haul airline, employs over 23,000 flight attendants and around 4,000 pilots from around the world including from the US, Europe and Middle East, the spokeswoman said.
Meanwhile, other Gulf-based airlines such as Etihad and Qatar have issued warnings urging passengers to call their booking agents to make changes.
US-based Delta Air Lines experienced a major computer outage that caused travel woes and airport confusion. The carrier responded: “Delta will make every effort to contact impacted customers with flexible rebooking options, including refunds.”
Virgin Atlantic and British Airways are offering refunds and re-routes for passengers booked to fly into the US, adding to the shake-up.
Continued protests at American airports could also affect tourist flow, demotivating passengers to book flights for the time being.
Health of Asian economy
The shock of the travel ban shook the Asian market as shares slipped and global stocks posted their biggest loss in six weeks, Reuters reported.
“Investors are becoming worried as it appears as if he was setting fire to geopolitical risks that already exist,” said Yoshinori Shigemi, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management.
Tourism is one of the US’s biggest exports, accounting for up to 25 percent of all services exports. Specifically, Asian travelers spend more money in the US than those from Europe or Latin America.
Chinese tourists in particular, who were the second-largest group to visit New York City last year, could make or break tourism revenues in the US. Trump’s outward anti-China sentiments don’t help its tourism cause either.
Downfall of US tourism
A report on Travel + Leisure predicted that Trump’s order could pose detrimental for tourism numbers, with projected loss mounting upwards of US$18 billion.
According to the US Travel Association, just over one million Middle East-based travelers passed through US customs in 2013 and those travelers spent an average of US$6,000 each for a total of US$6.8 billion.
In comparison, Europeans spend less than US$4,000 on average when they visit the US.
It’s not just Muslim travelers who are feeling the hostility. According to a separate report on The Economist, a third of German travelers, and a fifth of British and French ones said that they’re less likely to visit the US as a result of Trump’s victory.
The report added that if the survey was ran again in light of recent events, the numbers would probably be higher as “many of the travellers surveyed expressed hope that Mr Trump’s brash pre-election promises were mere bluster”.
Of course, Mexico too contributes to a fair chunk of US’s tourism revenues, making up 18.4 million inbound tourist numbers. With escalated talks of walls, increased import tariffs, and the tearing up of trade deals, many Mexicans may just pass up the chance to cross borders.
Surge in Asia
Given that halal tourism is currently booming and makes up a big slice of the travel market, the US could lose out on significant revenues.
One of the more positive outcomes (if any) of Trump’s immigration order is the predicted surge of Middle Eastern and Muslim travelers in Asia.
If safety and perception are decisive factors in holiday destinations, halal travel could see a surge in Asia, particularly in Thailand.
“The Middle East is a big market for us, especially in the medical tourism sector. They may choose to visit Thailand more and this may also boost our sector,” Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn told Reuters.
Only just over two percent of Thailand’s tourists came from the Middle East in 2016, but it expects an eight percent rise in the first quarter of 2017 compared with the year before.
Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company based in Wayne, Pa, told The New York Times that more money is spent in the US by international travelers than anywhere else in the world.
However, tough immigration laws, stringent border security, and a negative perception of certain communities could affect the country’s status as a tourist haven. Safety is also a mounting concern.
Henry Harteveldt, the founder of Atmosphere Research Group, a travel industry research company, said in the same report, “If certain groups are targeted, if hate speech is tolerated against certain ethnicities, inbound travel will dry up.
“There are people in Mexico, Latin America, the Middle East who view Trump with suspicion and concern.
“I think he is going to have to show that he can be magnanimous and can have a broader vision, which will be very important for international trade and inbound tourism.”
As this report on The Economist puts bluntly: “A country hitherto renowned for its warm welcome suddenly feels awfully frosty.”