As a result of two recent travel ban executive orders – even though both have been suspended by federal judges – various jurisdictions around the world are making their own decisions related to travel to the U.S.
A significant decision from a totally unexpected country is the newly announced policy of the Toronto School Board to cease student field trips to the United States, due to the lack of clarity on these executive orders and how they would be implemented. The school board, representing the country’s largest school system, took the preemptive action because it simply does not want to risk any problems down the road.
There are other anecdotal accounts and news reports about steps taken by national governments in countries not specifically named in either executive order. Two examples are Pakistan and Nigeria.
The Deputy President of the Pakistan Senate was turned down for a U.S. visa to attend a United Nations meeting of national parliaments. The government of Pakistan reacted by banning U. S. Congressional visits and other diplomatic trips to that country.
In Nigeria, a number of its citizens with valid visas were turned back in the U.S. and had their visas confiscated. As a result, the government of Nigeria issued an advisory to its citizens not to visit the United States, if it is at all possible to avoid coming here. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa.
All of this is challenging for inbound operators who depend on the ease of access as one of the key elements of bringing visitors to the United States.
Luckily, there will be three upcoming events at which IITA members will have a chance to either give input on these types of reactions or communicate directly with the business partners who are generating international inbound visitors.
This week, US Travel is holding Destination Capitol Hill. One of the three key issues in its message to Congress will be preserving and expanding visa waiver, as it is a program which enhances security. That message will also build on the need for a clear but narrowly defined way to exclude truly undesirable visitors to the United States. IITA Chairman Gary Schluter, Secretary Gerrit De Vos and Executive Director Lisa Simon are representing IITA.
Also this week, the Travel and Tourism Advisory Board – on which Chairman Schluter serves as a Board member – will meet with new Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to share the positive impact of travel on the U.S. economy.
Finally, in a few months the inbound industry will convene at IPW in Washington, DC. It is guaranteed that international travel buyers of U.S. product will be coming with lots of questions about travel access. It will be critical for all of the inbound operators to be prepared with clear up-to-date information. Watch for more forthcoming information from IITA in the coming weeks to prepare for your IPW meetings.