Immigration Executive Order Raises Multiple Concerns

When President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order stopping all immigration of any kind from Syria and suspending immigration from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen for a minimum of ninety days, there was an immediate reaction both in the United States and around the world.

The question of travel to the United States is now colored by this new policy, which has ranged in its interpretation from permanently excluding some visitors by national origin, excluding others by religion, potentially changing visa and entry policies without any advance notice, and even excluding re-entry to people with established status, such as Green Card holders and dual citizens.

The outrage about this Executive Order has been extensive, especially in other countries.  The reaction within the United States has been strong and bi-partisan with many citing it as a violation of the founding principles of the nation and its history of immigration.

As a result, there are three kinds of visitors who can reduce the numbers of inbound travelers to the United States and thereby impact the business of international inbound tour operators.

First, there are those who can no longer visit.  These potential visitors are ones from the seven listed countries, whether they are seeking residency or just visiting.  The recent nuclear accord with Iran raised the possibility of more visitors from that country, especially since the United States has a large and thriving community of ex-patriots, who call themselves “Persians,” using the old name for Iran.  Not only will this traffic dry up, but Iran is the first country to ban American visitors in response to the Executive Order.

Secondly, more visitors may be afraid to come, particularly from Muslim majority countries, countries with civil strife or health issues, or even other countries, as there is a well publicized additional policy under consideration to ask visitors for access to which websites they visit and who they call.  Additionally, it is not clear whether other policy matters, such as a country opposing any U. S. international initiative could find itself, excluded from visiting.  Visitors might become fearful that policies will change again, target them, and put them in jeopardy, thereby choosing to avoid America all together.

Finally, there are visitors who may simply choose not to come to the U.S. in response to the current political climate and new national policies with which they disagree.  Visitors like to go to countries whose conduct they approve and believe are very welcoming.  Certainly, the American public will continue to put out this kind of message with tremendous support from Brand USA.  Nevertheless, media coverage of this new policy has been global, intense, and highly negative to date.  Front page news, political commentary on blogs, social media, and broadcast, and word of mouth reports all bury promotional efforts.

In a related matter, there will also be some other challenges to international inbound tour operators who have employees in the United States who are non-citizens and working under other kinds of status.  Travel by these staff members, who can help service inbound visitors from countries with which they are familiar in terms of language and customs, could also be impacted with this Executive Order and any potential subsequent orders, should more be forthcoming at any time.

Luckily, the IITA Summit starts on Monday with an open forum for inbound operators.  This subject will be featured during that time as well as throughout the conference.  Please come prepared to discuss it, so IITA can have a clear statement on this matter backed up by what is happening in the marketplace, provided you are already experiencing some reaction.

We look forward to a vigorous discussion on this critical matter.