Skift Take

Thursday night's court decision means travel can continue as it was before the executive order. But as GBTA's executive director pointed out, potential travelers know the situation is temporary and might be reluctant to make long-term plans.

After nearly two weeks of widespread confusion, protests, court battles, and uncertainty, President Donald Trump’s travel ban is already taking a toll on the economy, a new analysis says.

A Global Business Travel Association blog post said business travel transaction levels systemwide in the U.S. dropped by 2.2 percent the week after the executive order, which was signed Jan. 27. The previous week, those levels were up by 1.2 percent compared to the week before.

The estimates are based on industry data available as of Wednesday.

During the week after the ban was first announced, according to the association, about $185 million in business travel bookings were lost.

“We urge the Trump administration to pause this travel ban action, reassess its path forward with key stakeholders, and preserve both our national security AND our economy for the future,” GBTA executive director and chief operating officer Michael McCormick wrote in the blog post.

The ban, which applies to travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, has not been enforced since a Seattle judge blocked it late last week. An appeals court upheld that temporary restraining order late Thursday, virtually ensuring that the legal wrangling would continue.

In a tweet, GBTA said late Thursday it welcomed the decision, but expected business travel to be affected as long as the matter was still unresolved.

In the blog item posted earlier Thursday, McCormick said that no matter what happened, the outcome would be a “lose-lose scenario for business travel and the economy.”

Reinstating the ban, he said, could hurt the economy and unleash the kind of disruption that was seen when the order was first signed. Travelers, including those with green cards, were taken off planes, not allowed to board at all, and detained at airports once they landed.

“While the White House’s stated goal was acting in the interest of national security, it did not give the civil servants responsible for implementing the ban any chance to do so effectively,” McCormick said. “There was too much uncertainty and a lack of clarity around the executive order, leading to general confusion. The net effect was that business travel bookings were delayed or canceled.”

But he said upholding the temporary stay would also be problematic, as that decision would likely keep appeals going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Indeed, Trump tweeted an all-caps response: “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE.”)

“The initial impact has already been felt and the uncertainty it will create as we await an appeal to the Supreme Court will continue to make its mark,” McCormick wrote. “Advanced bookings will likely slow as travel professionals cannot be sure if and when the ban will be reinstated. Meetings and events may be cancelled altogether.”

Two GBTA surveys last week showed the initial reaction from travel buyers. Nearly a third of those who responded in the U.S. expected their company to curtail business travel in the next three months. That number was higher in Europe: almost half of the respondents anticipated a near-term slowdown in business travel.

The association’s statement on Thursday was stronger than anything executives had said about the order since it was first signed. Earlier — before the temporary halt — McCormick praised programs such as the Visa Waiver Program, but did not call for a change to the original edict. He mentioned that program again in the latest post, but emphasized it as an alternative to a ban.

“There is no question that security is of the utmost importance,” he wrote. “However, instead of closing our borders, the United States should continue to pursue and focus on expanding security programs like the Visa Waiver Program, which facilitates information-sharing among governments to ensure properly vetted travelers, making us all more safe and secure.”


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Tags: business travel, gbta, travel ban, trump

Photo credit: Protesters assemble at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Jan. 28 over President Trump's travel ban. The Global Business Travel Association on Thursday urged Trump to "reassess" his plan for the executive order. Craig Ruttle / Associated Press

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