Donald Trump’s executive order to re-evaluate immigration and refugee policy and practices was signed on January 27th. Immediately, the order was rebranded by the public as the ‘Travel Ban’ or the ‘Muslim Ban.’ Chaos ensued. There was little to no preparation for the executive order to actually be executed. Families were left in immigration purgatory, visas were canceled, and protests erupted at airports across the world.
Still, the effect on the US (and yes, our economy) loomed. It was bad PR in a PR-savvy industry. Almost overnight, flight aggregators saw a downturn in searches to the US from abroad. Citizens of the world made it clear that they were rethinking visits to America. There was still a chance that it was just posturing — something akin to a spike in searches about how to move to Canada on November 9th — but the tea leaves seemed to read a little differently this time. It’s a lot easier to change a trip than it is to move a family.
Now we know that the damage is real. The Global Business Travel Association just released a report that looks at the hard numbers from just one week of Trump’s travel ban. Already there has been a 3.4 percent decrease in business travel alone. That may seem small, but that equates to a net loss of $185 million in one week. For comparison’s sake, the GBTA points out that a “1% drop in business travel over the course of a year [emphasis ours] correlates with a loss of 71,000 American jobs and close to $5bn in gross domestic product.”
Some perspective: international visitors brought in $246 billion last year alone, making travel one of the biggest industries in the US. The Economist points out that international tourism “vastly exceeds the value of other major American exports such as cars ($152bn), agricultural products ($137bn) and petroleum products ($97bn).”
Let that one sink in a for a moment, we make more on exporting our country as an awesome tourism destination — by far — than we do exporting cars, food, or oil.
The GBTA goes on to cite that there has been a 17 percent drop in overall searches for flights and trips to the USA. This is compared to a less than one percent drop from the previous year during the same time. This correlates with numbers that Kayak.com released earlier citing a 14 percent drop in searches for flights from the EU to the USA. Suzanne Perry over Kayak points out that “with 1.5 billion searches conducted on Kayak websites every year, these percentage changes are really significant.”