WASHINGTON – International travel to the U.S. continues to plunge as a result of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, on hold as it winds its way through federal courts.
International visitors’ spending in the U.S. — $246 billion in 2016 — could decline as much as it did in the post-9/11 attacks as a result of the short-lived ban, analysts warn.
“The United States is in danger of taking the same path it took after the 9/11 terror attacks, which led to a decade of economic stagnation in the travel and tourism sector,” David Scowsill, president and CEO of the London-based World Travel & Tourism Council, said at a Las Vegas aviation industry conference.
“Closing borders risks jobs,” Scowsill said. “Travel and tourism thrives by breaking down barriers, not building them; by making it easier for people to travel, not applying blanket bans. Our sector bridges divides between cultures and fosters understanding across religious and geographic boundaries.”
A Spanish travel economics research firm found bookings from the seven predominantly Muslim countries targeted by Trump’s travel ban fell 80 percent, while overall international bookings to the U.S. dropped 6.5 percent, in the eight days after Trump imposed the ban Jan. 27. The firm and other travel industry experts said it would likely take two weeks before the full impact of the ban becomes evident.
The World Travel & Tourism Council reports international flight searches from other countries to the U.S. have declined 6-17 percent on major bookings sites.
“The data forces a compelling conclusion that Donald Trump’s travel ban immediately caused a significant drop in bookings to the USA and an immediate impact on future travel,” said Olivier Jager, the CEO of the Spanish travel economics firm, ForwardKeys.
In the wake of worldwide criticism and protests, the ban has led to significant declines in visitors to the U.S. not only in the targeted countries, but throughout the world, statistics show.
A Toronto Star op-ed urged Canadians to “boycott vacations to the U.S.” as long as Trump remains in the White House.
“The reprehensible Trump travel ban demands a personal response,” wrote Mark Bulgutch, an author and former Canadian Broadcaster Corp. senior executive producer. “As an ordinary citizen there is something you can do. You can tell the president that if he closes the door on people who don’t deserve such callous treatment, we won’t be using the door he has left open for us. We’ll stop visiting the United States.”
Alarm over the impacts of the travel ban comes a week after the U.S. Travel Association reported international bookings to the U.S. had finally returned to pre-9/11 levels.
The U.S. travel and tourism sector brings in nearly $950 billion in spending annually, generating 8.1 million jobs and $148 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues, the travel Association says.
Trump’s travel ban is on hold as the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco weighs whether to reconsider a case in which refused to toss out Seattle U.S. District Judge James Robart’s temporary restraining order and reinstate the ban. The decision prompted Trump to call Robart a “so-called judge” in a tweet.
The district court suit by Washington state and Minnesota challenging Trump’s travel ban will proceed as the appeals court considers a preliminary injunction, Robart ruled Monday.
A federal judge in Virginia this week blocked the travel ban in that state.
“The ‘Muslim ban’ was a centerpiece of the president’s campaign for months, and the press release calling for it was still available on his website as of the day this [opinion] is being entered,” wrote Judge Leonie Brinkema of U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Trump’s order bars citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days, to refugees for 120 days and to Syrian refugees indefinitely.
The president has repeatedly called the travel ban necessary to protect the U.S. from Islamist terrorist attacks.
Most polls show the U.S. nearly evenly split over the ban, which led to chaos, protests in the U.S. and abroad and criticism from numerous world leaders. But a Fox News poll released Tuesday showed 52 percent approve of the ban to 46 percent who oppose it.