Travel sec­tor up in the air

US court par­tially backs travel ban for six coun­tries

The National - News - Business - - Front Page - LeAnne Graves lgraves@then­ational.ae

The travel in­dus­try faces a whirl­wind of con­fu­sion af­ter the high­est court in the United States moved to par­tially back the travel ban against six coun­tries. The US supreme court ruled yes­ter­day that travel in­junc­tions against ci­ti­zens from six coun­tries – Iran, Libya, So­ma­lia, Su­dan, Syria and Ye­men would re­main in place un­less their na­tion­als had a “cred­i­ble claim of a bona fide re­la­tion­ship with a per­son or en­tity in the United States”.

The rul­ing said al­lowances would be made for those with a close fa­mil­ial re­la­tion­ship to an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen, students who are ad­mit­ted into the coun­try’s uni­ver­si­ties and em­ploy­ees of Amer­i­can com­pa­nies. The court also cited pro­vi­sion for any lec­turer in­vited to ad­dress an Amer­i­can au­di­ence.

But these pa­ram­e­ters still leave much open to in­ter­pre­ta­tion, such as how close should the rel­a­tive be – a brother or sis­ter, or is a third cousin ac­cept­able?

The Travel Col­lec­tion, a Dubai-based sales and mar­ket­ing firm rep­re­sent­ing be­spoke and high-end ho­tels, has clients look­ing to travel to other trou­ble-free des­ti­na­tions as a re­sult of the US stance.

“Some­one’s loss is another’s gain. There are many other places to travel and other parts of Europe and Asia are more at­trac­tive to cus­tomers,” said Jac­que­line Camp­bell, the man­ag­ing direc­tor of The Travel Col­lec­tion.

The com­pany mostly caters to GCC na­tion­als, making up 70 per cent of its clien­tele, and has seen a drop in de­mand for its US des­ti­na­tions in­clud­ing Lon­don West Hol­ly­wood, Como Metropoli­tan Mi­ami Beach, The Sur­rey in New York City and Cal­i­for­nia’s Bel­mond El En­canto.

Ms Camp­bell said trav­el­ling to the US re­quired ad­vanced book­ings, which just were not a norm this year. The com­pany had more for­ward book­ings last year, but with the un­cer­tain­ties that have cropped up this year, it has re­sulted in clients look­ing else­where.

Over the past three months the com­pany’s US reser­va­tions have dipped 15 per cent dip com­pared with the same time pe­riod last year.

The un­cer­tainty about trav­el­ling to the US is not an­tic­i­pated to ease in the near fu­ture.

“There is a great deal of am­bi­gu­ity and sub­jec­tive­ness in the rul­ing,” said Gau­rav Sinha, the founder and man­ag­ing direc­tor of In­signia, a Dubai-based travel and hos­pi­tal­ity con­sul­tancy. “It is go­ing to cre­ate a de­gree of tur­moil and un­pre­dictabil­ity for the travel in­dus­try in par­tic­u­lar.”

He said that while border con­trols were im­por­tant for any na­tion, these lat­est US re­stric­tions need a more prag­matic and clear ex­pla­na­tion or this will lead to peo­ple de­clin­ing to travel.

“I don’t have fam­ily in the US, but if I go on busi­ness to look at in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties – I’m crip­pled by the lack of clar­ity and it’s de­mor­al­is­ing for peo­ple,” Mr Sinha said.

Re­gard­less of the am­bi­gu­ity, for­eign gov­ern­ments are given 50 days to bring their prac­tices in line with the US home­land se­cu­rity depart­ment, while the supreme court will hear oral ar­gu­ments dur­ing its next term start­ing in Oc­to­ber. This is the time that when the court will de­cide if the ban is law­ful.

Saj Ah­mad, the chief an­a­lyst of Strate­gicAeroRe­search.com said it was too early to see how the sit­u­a­tion will all shake out. “But it’s likely that the case be­ing held in the au­tumn will have a long road ahead of it with a slew of le­gal chal­lenges and counter-chal­lenges,” he said.

“It’s a con­vo­luted mess that will make at­tor­neys rich and trav­ellers poor.”

James Lawler Dug­gan / Reuters

Trav­ellers from the six coun­tries need a “a bona fide re­la­tion­ship with a per­son or en­tity in the United States”.

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