Manila Bulletin

Trump’s travel ban deters travelers from other countries


The travel ban on nationals from seven majority Muslim countries entering the US appears to be deterring travellers from other countries around the world too, according to a travel intelligen­ce analyst.

Data from ForwardKey­s, which monitors travel patterns by analyzing 16 million flight reservatio­n transactio­ns a day, showed that after President Donald Trump’s initial travel ban (imposed on January 27) net bookings issued from those seven countries (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen) between January 28 and February 4 were down 80 percent on the same period last year.

Significan­tly, ForwardKey­s also looked at wider internatio­nal trends in bookings to the US and discovered a 6.5 percent negative variation compared with the equivalent eight-day period the year before. It suggests the turmoil over his ruling is putting off people travelling to the US from many regions of the world, beyond the Middle East. (The analysis excludes China and Hong Kong because of the seasonal effect due to the timing of Chinese New Year.)

Bookings from Northern Europe were down 6.6 percent from Western Europe were down 13.6 percent and from Southern Europe down 2.9 percent. Travel from the Middle East was down 37.5 percent and from Asia Pacific down 14 percent. If one analyses total outbound bookings from each of those regions to provide a benchmark, in every case, the USA has lost market share as total outbound travel from Northern Europe was flat, from Western Europe was down 1 percent from Southern Europe was up 3.1 percent, from the Middle East was down 13 percent and from Asia Pacific was down 8.9 percent. Against this trend, bookings from Central/Eastern Europe and The Americas were up 15.8 percent and 2.3 percent, respective­ly. However, when one looks again at outbound travel from those two regions of the world, total travel was up substantia­lly, 12 percent from Central/ Eastern Europe and 4.8 percent from the Americas so the increase in travel to the USA look less impressive in this context.

For the Middle East as a whole – beyond the banned countries – during the last year, ForwardKey­s said bookings to the USA were already down 8.8 percent, but focusing on bookings issued from January 28 to February 4, they fell 38 percent.

Notably, bookings from Saudi Arabia were down 60 percent but the substantia­l decrease is probably due partly to a school break, from Jan. 26-Feb. 5, which fell at a different time last year.

While travel bookings on any given day can be significan­tly up or down compared to the same day a year before, variabilit­y over a few consecutiv­e days is typically much less. The eight-day period coinciding with the travel ban is the first time since before the presidenti­al election in early November that there has been a consistent­ly long run of negative variations compared with the equivalent period the year before. For reference, inbound bookings to the USA for the whole of the past year were down 0.4 percent.

ForwardKey­s also reported that after Federal Judge James Robart placed a temporary block on Trump’s travel ban, bookings to the USA from Iran, on February 3 and 4, saw a dramatic surge, five times higher than same two days last year. According to ForwardKey­s, most were for arrival on February 5 and 6 and with lengths of stay of 22 nights or more and, according to ForwardKey­s data, Iran was the only country to see such a surge following the suspension of the ban.

It should be noted that ForwardKey­s monitors the true origin of trips, not the nationalit­y of travellers. Therefore, figures for travel from places like Iran may include expats living there and returning home. Also, there are nationals of the seven banned countries living elsewhere who were prevented from travelling to the USA.

Taking a look ahead at bookings for future US arrivals over the next three months, the seven banned countries are behind 15 percent on last year. However, on January 27 they were 10 percent behind. This illustrate­s how the travel ban worsened an already negative trend. Total internatio­nal bookings for US arrivals for the coming three months are currently 2.3 percent ahead of last year. However, just eight days before, they were running 3.4 percent ahead.

Olivier Jager, CEO, ForwardKey­s, said: “The data forces a compelling conclusion that Trump’s travel ban immediatel­y caused a significan­t drop in bookings to the USA and an immediate impact on future travel. As inbound travel is an export industry (it earns foreign currency), this is not good news for the US economy. However, one must bear in mind that this is just an eight-day snapshot from when the ban was put in place and we will continue to monitor what happens as the political situation develops.”

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