The 90-day ban on travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the US has riled the global travel community, with many industry leaders calling for the move to be repealed.
Following Trump’s executive order on January 27, World Travel & Tourism Council president & CEO, David Scowsill, criticised the move as a violation “against the fundamental right of freedom to travel”. He elaborated: “WTTC believes that all people have the right to cross international borders safely and efficiently for business and tourism purposes.”
The “misguided” ban could tarnish the image of the US as a tourist destination and risk impacting its tourism arrivals, forewarned PATA CEO Mario Hardy. He further highlighted that “the majority of terrorist attacks in the recent past have been perpetrated by homegrown, radicalised nationals of the country involved”.
While Trump’s executive order has caused chaos across the airlines and travel world, agents in Asia-Pacific so far have not seen any fallout on their business.
Haydn Long, global media & investor relations manager for Flight Centre Travel Group, sees limited impact on the Australian trade. He said: “Some concerns have abated in recent days, given that it now appears that dual citizens (holding Australian passports) can still travel. The biggest issues seem to be confusion and misinformation.”
Nalin Kapadia, chairman, Incredible Vacations India, commented: “It is too premature to assess the impact of Trump’s travel ban. In the short run travel to US will be affected but the lure to visit US will push Muslims from other nations to try harder for visas. There certainly is an opportunity for other markets like Europe, China and Russia to attract Muslim travellers.”
Others shared that Muslim tourist traffic could be diverted to Asia from the US.
Nicholas Mulley, COO for Destination Asia, added: “We expect to see a rise in Muslim travellers to Asia due to (relative) safety and stability, combined with a tolerance towards different religions and extensive halal food options in Malaysia, Indonesia and across the larger cities in East/South-east Asia.”
Likewise in Japan, there are hopes that Muslim travellers may begin favouring Japan as a destination over the US, according to Tatsuki Miura of H.I.S.’ corporate planning department and Keisuke Nomura of Nippon Travel Agency.
Furthermore, the US remains an aspirational destination for many Asian travellers. Alicia Seah, director of PR and communications, Dynasty Travel, said: “With (the right) co-ordination and consistent operational information with regard to its travel ban and visa issues, the US will remain an attractive destination to visit with its world renowned theme parks, national parks and night entertainment in the West Coast.”
However, some agents are bracing for more stringent visa procedures to the US in the days ahead. A Philippine travel consultant, who requested anonymity, is expecting the US to restrict the number of approved visa applications for Filipinos to curb undocumented immigrants in the country.
– Reporting by Adelaine Ng, Xinyi Liang-Pholsena, Barathi Narayan, Rohit Kaul, Rosa Ocampo and Julian Ryall