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Trump Travel Ban Hits The Travel Industry


The travel industry is watching for what's called the Trump effect. They mean a drop in international travel since the president's executive order stopping visitors from some Muslim majority countries. There is now a second order. To the industry, it's not just the visitors actually banned but the message the orders send to everyone else. NPR's David Schaper reports.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: New York City is by far the number one American destination for overseas travelers. Fred Dixon heads the tourism agency NYC & Company and says about a third of all foreign tourists coming to the U.S. visit New York.

FRED DIXON: Last year was a tremendous year. We actually set records in every category.

SCHAPER: But Dixon says the data over the last several weeks shows a drastic change.

DIXON: Bookings and searches for bookings for travel to the United States in New York City were down year over year.

SCHAPER: Down so much that NYC & Company is revising its forecasts this year, projecting that 300,000 fewer international travelers will visit New York. What has changed?

DIXON: It's really the rhetoric and the political atmosphere and a lot of the talk around the travel ban. You know, really, it seems to have given some travelers pause.

SCHAPER: And the downturn in international travel to the U.S. is not just affecting New York. Philadelphia's tourism agency says one international meeting that draws some 3,000 attendees is now going to Canada or to Mexico.

ForwardKeys, a company that tracks travel, reports that international travel bookings to the U.S. were down 6.5 percent in February. And the Global Business Travel Association says in just the first week following the president's January 27 travel ban, the U.S. lost nearly $200 million in business travel bookings.


MICHAEL MCCORMICK: Closing our borders sends a message to the world that the United States is closed for business.

SCHAPER: That's Global Business Travel Association executive director Michael McCormick in a recent video message to members. In an interview, McCormick says while the revised executive order more clearly states who is not allowed to travel to the U.S. and who is, lawsuits filed to challenge the new order cloud the situation.

MCCORMICK: You know, that uncertainty still casts a pall over business travel.

SCHAPER: And McCormick says business travel drives business growth. Just a 1 percent decline in international business travel over a year could cost this country 71,000 jobs and $3 billion in wages.

MCCORMICK: It really makes a dramatic impact on both the economy at large, jobs and tax collection.

JONATHAN GRELLA: The temperature is cranked up pretty high right now.

SCHAPER: That's Jonathan Grella of the U.S. Travel Association, who says the problem is not so much the restrictions on travelers from the six Muslim majority countries, but it is the uproar over the executive orders that is influencing whether international travelers want to come to the U.S.

GRELLA: The question remains whether the revised order did enough to mollify the prospective traveler from Canada or Europe or elsewhere around the world who may have been put off by the original travel ban.

SCHAPER: Grella says there is still time to change the narrative. But he says with travel, perception is reality. And the longer the perception remains that the U.S. is not welcoming, the more the travel industry will suffer. David Schaper, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF PREFUSE 73'S "PERVERTED UNDERTONE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.