Meeting Mentor Magazine

April 2024

Travel Ban Stirs Strong Industry Response

President Donald Trump’s executive order on refugees and immigration was halted indefinitely on Feb. 9 after a decision by a Federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s ruling that temporarily suspended the order. The administration said it may appeal the case to the Supreme Court, and/or issue a revised executive order.

The original executive order, issued on January 27, bars Syrian refugees from entering the United States, suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days, and bans citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days.

Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, issued a statement following the decision last week by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals:

”We agree with the court that there are significant interests at stake here. We add to that list of interest the millions of jobs supported by travel across America. Over the past two weeks, our members have voiced their concerns about how an unintended consequence of this executive order could be a reduction in both international leisure and business travel to the United States. Destinations large and small depend on these visitors to sustain local businesses and jobs.

“That said, we stand with the administration, Congress and law enforcement officials, as we all remain vigilant during an era of constantly changing global security dynamics. As always, we believe in striking a balance that places a premium on both security and our nation’s history as a welcoming place for travelers from around the globe.”

Following the order’s rollout in January, The Meetings Mean Business Coalition (MMBC) sought to lead a unified industry response to the travel ban. MMBC issued a statement calling for the “right balance between enhanced security and travel facilitation.” The statement said that the administration’s executive order on immigration and refugees “has led to concern and confusion across the meetings industry. Our industry is all about bringing people together, fostering relationships, driving positive outcomes and supporting communities.”

An MMBC survey on the travel ban, conducted February 1 to 6, collected more than 1,665 responses. Initial findings include: 54 percent of respondents projected the ban would harm the reputation of the U.S. as a global meetings destination; 45 percent are concerned about the immediate complications with existing travel arrangements for international attendees registered to attend North American programs; and 37 percent also are worried the ban will hamper their organizations’ ability to grow their audiences globally.

Several industry associations, while expressing support for MMBC’s role in leading a united industry response, issued statements of their own shortly after the executive order was initially implemented. John Graham, FASAE, CAE, president and CEO of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), was sharply critical of how the order was implemented and questioned its intention.

“While ASAE supports strong screening of travelers entering the U.S., it’s clear that this order was too hastily enacted, sparking chaos and confusion across the world,” Graham said in article on the association’s website. “Not only does it concern us in terms of the impact on international attendance at association meetings and conferences, it raises questions about whether we are making policy as a nation based on religion. ASAE urges the administration to clarify the intent of this order and confirm our nation’s commitment to equality and humanitarianism.”

Destination Marketing Association International’s President and CEO Don Welsh added his association’s voice. “Our statement is intended to be most respectful to the new administration. However, we wanted to go on record that we believe that these new restrictions are detrimental to our industry.” The statement called the ban “arbitrary,” said it had the potential to impede the economic benefits of the tourism industry, and asked that it be lifted as quickly as possible.

The International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) also issued a statement shortly after the executive order was announced. “The global exhibitions industry contributes more than $200 billion to world economies, with roughly $77 billion contributed to the U.S. GDP annually,” said Ryan Strowger, CEM, chair of IAEE and senior vice president of exhibitions, conferences and sales at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.

“More than 42 million visitors attend more than 9,400 business-to-business exhibitions and events in the U.S. alone,” Strowger added. “IAEE members and stakeholders are rightfully concerned about the long-term ramifications of restrictions placed on global travelers coming to the U.S.”<br> —Regina McGee

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