Government Affairs Travel ban less worrisome but still may hurt By Robert Silk / July 02, 2017 Share 1 -- Travel industry representatives said that the 90-day U.S. travel ban that the Trump administration imposed last week on nationals of six Muslim-majority countries isn't as worrisome as the original ban introduced in January. But they still expect it to have ramifications around the globe."Those are not major tourism markets," said Lisa Simon, executive director of the International Inbound Travel Association. "But the Muslim market overall has been growing pretty significantly in recent years. There is concern that there is going to be a perspective from the Middle East in general and Muslims coming from other countries that they would not come to the United States because of this action." Europeans who disagree with the ban might also look elsewhere to travel, she said. The ban, which went into effect on June 29, applies to nationals from Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Libya. The Trump administration was able to implement it pursuant to a June 26 Supreme Court opinion, which stated the administration can block nationals of those countries, though exceptions must be made for individuals "who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States."People visiting close family or who have lined up jobs or schooling in the U.S. cannot be subject to the ban, the court said. The opinion partially reversed the stay on the ban that had been implemented by lower courts. It will remain in effect until the Supreme Court hears arguments in the case in October. By then, however, the case may be moot, since the 90-day period will have expired. During the 90-day period, the administration will review security and travel vetting procedures in the impacted countries.The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has interpreted "close family" to mean spouses, children, parents and parents- and children-in-law and siblings. However, grandparents, grandchildren and other extended family don't meet the definition. Relationships that nationals from the six countries have with U.S. entities cannot be formed for the purpose of evading the travel ban. The ban does not apply to individuals who held visas before it went into effect.Despite widespread concern within the travel industry, it is difficult to measure whether President Trump's prior travel-related actions, especially the chaotic weeklong imposition of the original ban in January, has had any impact on inbound U.S. travel. Several companies have said that internet travel searches for the U.S. are down, and the Global Business Travel Association predicts a loss of more than $1.3 billion in overall travel-related spending in the U.S. due to political uncertainty. Conversely, the U.S. Travel Association's Travel Trends Index found that international travel had grown about 4% year-over-year in April.Like Simon, Jay Smith, chairman of the National Tour Association, expressed concern about the way people around the world might view the new travel ban. But from a practical standpoint, he didn't think the ban would be a significant issue for tour operators, as the designated countries send very few tourists to the U.S."I don't see a large impact," Smith said. Data from the State Department shows that in 2016, the U.S. awarded approximately 44,000 nonimmigrant visas to nationals of the six impacted countries, slightly more than half of them to Iranians. It's likely that only a fraction of those visitors came here as sightseers. Steve Kutay, the owner of North Carolina-based Iran Luxury Travel, said that the short-lived January travel ban all but killed his business, especially since Iran responded by threatening to issue its own prohibition on travelers from the U.S. "It's almost moribund," Kutay said of his business. This time around, Iranian officials labeled last week's Supreme Court decision as "racist," but as of last Thursday had not talked of issuing a retaliatory ban. Kutay said either way, the new ban isn't likely to impact Iran Luxury Travel because "the damage has mostly been done." But Craig Fichtelberg, president of AmTrav Corporate Travel, said that by putting uncertainty into the marketplace, the ban could do long-term damage to the U.S. business travel industry. "This just puts a bad taste in the entire global market," Fichtelberg said. "I think a lot of companies in countries that are not included in the ban are raising eyebrows and deciding whether they want to get involved with U.S. businesses."