US tourism slumping as Trump issues new travel ban
| October 02, 2017
U.S. tourism is officially in a slump. After months of reassurances that the travel industry was as strong as ever, data shows that travel to the U.S. is in fact down. The U.S. Department of Commerce recently showed that international travel to the U.S. dropped 4.2 percent in the first quarter of 2017 compared to 2016.
When President Donald Trump announced his travel ban earlier this year, many officials in the travel industry expressed concern that it would harm tourism. Now, it seems as though those concerns were valid.
With Trump issuing a revised travel ban Sept. 24, the question now is whether tourism will recover or continue in its downward spiral.
The revised restrictions go into effect Oct. 18 and includes eight countries: Chad, Libya, Iran, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen. It replaces the travel ban originally initiated in January and later revised in March of this year. The new list adds North Korea, Chad and Venezuela, while removing Sudan.
Making America Safe is my number one priority. We will not admit those into our country we cannot safely vet.https://t.co/KJ886okyfC— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
While the Trump administration sees the travel ban as a step toward making the U.S. a safer place for both citizens and travelers, the travel industry thinks the message could be made more clear and inclusive to visitors and businesses.
"Security adjustments rooted in legitimate concerns will always be a fact of life for travelers," U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President of Public Affairs Jonathan Grella said in a statement. "It's essential that changes be clearly communicated and that there be both an incentive and a pathway for affected countries to bring themselves back into compliance, and the Department of Homeland Security and State Department have been doing a good job checking those boxes.
"The American travel community continues to feel that both security and economic objectives could benefit from a clear message that these policy moves are tailored to specific issues. The world needs to know that they are not intended to discourage travel generally, and that legitimate business and leisure travelers are as welcome as ever in the United States."
The travel ban is just one of several obstacles the travel industry is facing. Another is J-1 Visa program. Trump is proposing cuts that would introduce new requirements or eliminate the J-1 Visa program all together.
The potential changes come after Trump signed the "Buy American, Hire American" Executive Order earlier this year. The White House believes foreign students and workers who are granted visas to work in the U.S. are taking away jobs from Americans who are looking for employment.
"We understand and sympathize with the needs of employers who rely on seasonal H-2B workers if the U.S. workforce can't meet the demand, but unless it is carefully managed, the H-2B program puts all workers at risk," reads a letter sent by four U.S. senators to U.S. Department of Homeland Security John Kelly and Department of Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta.
The J-1 visa program allows more than 300,000 visitors to work temporarily in 13 categories, many of which work in the travel industry.
"Xanterra runs an exhaustive and innovative domestic hiring program," said CEO of Xanterra Parks & Resorts, Andrew Todd, the largest national park concession operator. "Our experience with these efforts has proven that we simply cannot find enough American workers willing to work these short-term, entry-level jobs."
While summer travel is winding down, this year's winter season and next year's summer seasonal work may tell a different story.
The other obstacle the travel industry is facing is the survival of Brand USA, which faces a potential extinction in the Trump administration 2018 fiscal budget proposal. But the destination marketing organization remains optimistic when it comes to staying in business.
"The president's budget is a statement of priorities and the power of purse lies in [the] hands of Congress," said Anne Madison, chief strategy and communications officer of Brand USA during a recent conference call. "We feel very confident about our future."
Despite tourism being down, Brand USA is still pushing toward their goal of 100 million international arrivals and $256 billion in spending to the U.S. per year by 2021.
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