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Trump's Travel Ban Deters Tourists — and Their Dollars — From All Over the World

Many travelers are reassessing or even canceling their U.S. trips in response to President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
Overall view from the south Rim of the Grand Canyon near Tusayan, Arizona
Tourists gather at the south Rim of the Grand Canyon near Tusayan, Arizona. REUTERS/Charles PlatiauReuters

Many travelers with plans to head to — or from — the United States for business or leisure are reassessing or even canceling their trips in response to President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, travel experts say.

After Trump’s inauguration and the first executive order temporarily banning travel to the U.S. from certain countries, travel analysts at Forward Keys and airfare search site Hopper saw flight bookings and searches to the U.S. slip.

“International trends in bookings to the U.S. are down 6.5 percent compared with the equivalent period the year before,” Forward Keys noted. “Trump’s travel ban is putting off people traveling to the U.S. from many regions of the world, beyond the Middle East.”

And while demand has recovered slightly since the initial travel ban was overturned, “It is still well below expected levels,” said Hopper data analyst Patrick Surry in an analysis of the travel ban’s impact on international travel.

On Tuesday, Hopper analyzed flight search demand from international origins to the U.S. for the three weeks prior to Trump's inauguration through March 6th and found overall searches down about 10 percent compared to the same period last year, with 102 of 122 origin countries showing declines.

Revised Travel Ban No Better?

And while the new travel ban is encouraging for those looking to come to the U.S. from Iraq, the question remains as to whether the revised order "did enough to mollify the prospective traveler from Canada, Europe, or elsewhere around the world who may have been put off by the initial travel ban,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow.

"It doesn't appear that the administration fully seized the opportunity to differentiate between the potential security risks targeted by [Trump's latest immigration] order and the legitimate business and leisure visitors from abroad who support 15.1 million American jobs," said Dow.

For now, the members of ASTA, the American Society of Travel Agents, are waiting, watching and fielding calls from anxious clients.

After the first travel rollout, some ASTA members reported no disruptions — while others reported significant canceled or delayed plans, said ASTA spokeswoman Erika Richter.

“It’s too soon to tell if this new travel ban will have an immediate impact,” she told NBC News. “But it’s also important to remember that any disruption to the travel ecosystem has a negative impact on the travel economy in one way or another.”

And that negative impact can add up.

Politics Affects Tourism Dollars

International travelers spent an average of $4,400 per person, per trip, noted Laura Mandala, CEO of Mandala Research. “It is well documented that a decline in U.S. global favorability ratings has corresponded to a decline in visitation to the U.S.,” she said.

For example, during the Bush years, international visitation declined by 20 percent, said Mandala.

And while the United States does have Las Vegas, Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, and other one-of-a-kind attractions, there are plenty of places outside the United States where international travelers can easily spend their dollars.

“We know international travelers vote with their passports,” said Mandala. “Perceptions of hassles on visas or security have historically been responsible for travelers choosing destinations where they won’t encounter these issues.”