Travel sector up in the air
US court partially backs travel ban for six countries
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.”
Travellers from the six countries need a “a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States”.