In a bid to root out terrorism, President Trump signed an executive order restricting travel into the U.S for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days. A week later, a federal judge in Seattle suspended the order nationwide, only to spark further chaos and confusion.
Beyond the public outcry and ongoing moral debate over the ethical legitimacy of the order, this protectionist ban has inevitably raised concerns over its potential impact on tourism and mobility. This sentiment is underscored by a statement issued by the United Nations World Travel Organization (UNWTO), expressing their “deep concern and strong condemnation” of the ban. The organization also cautions that such a hostile move could negatively affect global travel demand to the U.S.
Furthermore, with U.S at the crux of the global economy, this unexpected disruption may bring in more than just mere inconvenience for multi-national organizations where business travel is an essential part of their operations.
Dubai-based Emirates airline, for example, had to reallocate their flight crew on a U.S bound flight in order to comply with the new restrictions. Google, on another hand, put in a recall for some of its foreign employees travelling to the U.S, to safeguard their well-being, while noting that over 100 employees were directly affected by the ban.
As the events are still unfolding, the impact on travellers in the Southeast-Asia region has mostly been subtle and business is as usual at Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG) Singapore. The only slight inflection observed is that we have seen an increase in the number of enquiries around visa and travel restrictions in our corporate travel businesses, FCM Travel Solutions and Corporate Traveller.
A Pragmatic Approach
These concerns are not unwarranted, however, amidst this uncertainty, we strongly encourage both leisure and business travellers to adopt a pragmatic mindset towards the issue so as to minimise costly and unproductive disruptions.
At FCTG’s UAE office, we observe that organizations are making alternative arrangements that would comply with the new laws, instead of abruptly halting travel to the U.S altogether. One example is reallocating the assignment to an employee who is not affected by the ban.
We are also directing our customers to the U.S Embassy and Consulate websites for comprehensive updates as the sole source of information to discourage misinformation and unsupported assumptions on the subject.
Tourists concerned about the ongoing socio-political unrest across the key city states in the U.S can consider rescheduling their visits until the situation stabilises.
For those who still wish to travel within this period, err on the side of caution and double check with the local U.S embassy and a trusted travel agent to ensure that you are cleared for entry to the U.S. All travel documentations should be well accounted for, to avoid unnecessary holdups at the immigration checkpoints.
However, a more stringent screening process is to be expected and there may be ongoing protests at the airports and across the cities that could disrupt your itinerary. As with any trip, travel insurance is a must but do consider a more premium policy for extra peace of mind. Also, keep your employers and loved ones back home up-to-date by getting in touch whenever possible. If you are visiting a particularly high-alert area, it might be wise to inform someone of your whereabouts.
FCTG customers can also leverage on the FCM and Corporate Traveller mobile apps that allows business travellers to check in with their employers in real-time.
Break in the Clouds
It’s not all doom and gloom. While the U.S tourism business is predicted to take a hit, we are optimistic that the global travel industry will endure on its upward growth trajectory this year. In particular, we expect Asia to continue to blossom as a travel market, as it presents a relatively affordable alternative to its western counterparts. The ban could also well divert Islamic tourism to this region.
The MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing, Exhibitions) industry will also increasingly look to Asia as a stable and affordable destination for hosting events. These, fuelled by the development of the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High Speed Rail (HSR), the continued proliferation of Low-Cost Carriers (LCCs), as well as the Pan-Asia Railway Network, presents a silver lining in the clouded skies.
The picture right now, albeit a roiling one, is far from complete. As the events continue to develop and the world eagerly awaits President Trump’s next order of business, we can only buckle up our seatbelts and hope for the turbulence to pass.