Last ditch industry lobbying of the White House failed to prevent president Donald Trump from signing his latest travel ban.
Travel data firm ForwardKeys shared its latest analysis of the negative impacts of Trump’s initial executive order on the US travel industry with the White House prior to the new executive order covering six mainly Muslin nations – excluding Iraq – coming in to force on March 16.
The information was sent by email to White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters last Friday.
The data revealed that US bookings for travel to the Middle East collapsed in the wake of Trump’s previous travel ban in January.
The executive order on people from the seven Muslim-majority countries had a much wider than expected impact, as total international travel to the US fell by 6.5%.
Intervention by the courts a week later to strike down the ban triggered a recovery – only for US inbound bookings to slump again when Trump promised a new ban.
Future bookings are effectively flat, according to ForwardKeys, which monitors future travel patterns by analysing 16 million daily flight reservation transactions.
The impact of the ban on outbound travel is demonstrated by the fact that accumulated US bookings to the Middle East three weeks before the ban were up by a 12% on last year. However, in the four weeks following the ban they were down 27%, a 39% meltdown reversal.
ForwardKeys chief executive, Olivier Jager, said: “The information provided to the White House makes it clear that the travel ban has damaged the US travel industry.
“There has been a 39% meltdown in travel to the Middle East and when the ban was first announced, there was a 6.5% slump in bookings to the USA.
“The slump was reversed when the courts struck down the ban but Donald Trump’s promise of a new ban has triggered a second 4% slump.”
He added: “When Donald Trump issued the first travel ban, he did not have access to ForwardKeys’ data; however, we sent our analysis to Lindsay Walters personally on Friday, so it would be reasonable to assume Donald Trump’s administration was aware of our findings before implementing the new ban.”
Jager said: “It is interesting to note that the travel ban has not only impacted travel from the seven affected countries to the USA, as one would expect; it has also affected travel in the opposite direction too.
“At this point, we suspect that United States citizens may be avoiding travel to Islamic countries, fearing that they will not be welcome or that Muslims based in the United States may be avoiding travel fearing re-entry problems or both.
“Nevertheless, the effect, a 27% collapse in bookings to the Middle East, is substantial.”
Looking ahead, forward bookings for total international arrivals in the US over the next three months, are 0.4%, behind where they were at the same time last year.
Inbound travel from Europe, the Middle East and Africa is significantly behind whereas travel from Asia Pacific and the Americas is ahead.
As a benchmark, on January 27, the day before the imposition of the first travel ban, three-month forward bookings were 3.4% ahead.
“Donald Trump’s on-off travel ban has created a rollercoaster ride for the travel industry,” Jager said.
“Some passengers do not know where they stand as they await President Trump’s new order. In the meantime, uncertainty reigns and the presidential rhetoric appears to be deterring visitors to the USA.”
Meanwhile, US Travel Association president and chief executive Roger Dow, responding to Trump’s revised executive order, said:
“Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the administration fully seized the opportunity to differentiate between the potential security risks targeted by the order and the legitimate business and leisure visitors from abroad who support 15.1 million American jobs.
“Clearly this revised order is very encouraging news if you’re looking to come to the US from Iraq.
“The question remains whether the revised order did enough to mollify the prospective traveller from Canada, Europe, or elsewhere around the world who may have been put off by the initial travel ban.
“If undecided voters need to hear certain things to be motivated to get out and vote, then the same is true for undecided travellers.
“Solid data on the January 27 executive order’s impact on inbound travel will become available in the coming weeks.
“We are confident that administration officials have adequately prioritised national security, but we hope they are open to adjusting their approach to address economic objectives as well.
“We also continue to urge that the security reviews prescribed by the executive orders be concluded as quickly as possible.”