The implications of US president Donald Trump’s efforts to ban travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries are being felt in the associations sector, with organisers looking at alternative locations for their meetings.
The first travel ban attempt was blocked in January, while a second round of watered-down edicts is presently being challenged by a number of federal judges in the US. For the associations sector, however, the damage has been done and organisers are increasingly unwilling to chance speakers or delegates being refused entry into the US or, in a worst-case scenario, being detained and deported.
Industry players who spoke to TTGmice also expressed concerns over incidents of people not from the seven targeted nations but with Arabic names being refused entry into the US.
John H Graham, president and CEO of the Washington DC-based Center for Association Leadership, said: “Associations that are arranging meetings with international delegates have been negatively impacted already, with people from the technology, sciences and computers sectors prohibited from attending events.”
Graham revealed that many medical and pharmaceutical companies and associations are now moving their meetings from cities in the US to Canada.
He added the the travel ban has put "a cloud over the US as a welcoming country" which "hurts not only association meetings, but has an impact on people from countries not directly named in this ban, who won’t travel now to the US in protest".
For meeting planner Ashridge Associates UK, a 450-pax conference scheduled to take place in the US was axed shortly after the announcement of the travel ban, due to concerns that some Muslim delegates might be rejected at immigration although they were not from the affected countries, according to Theodore Spyrou, the company’s senior executive.
Halona Padiachy, director of international partnerships for the Pacific Asia Travel Association, said her organisation “would consider changing the location of an event if speakers, delegates or conference attendees were blocked from taking part.”
“We believe in the freedom to travel as being a key human right,” she emphasised. “And we advocate for tourism as a driver for peace and acceptance among people and countries.”
On the other hand, some meeting specialists have downplayed the negative impact of the travel ban.
Fabian Schreder, senior business development manager, Meeting Point International Germany, said: “Tighter security measures mean a safer destination.”
Taiwan-based K&A International Co, president, Kitty Wong, said most Muslim delegates at association meetings would be from Egypt, Malaysia and Turkey – countries not affected by the ban.