On March 6, President Trump signed a new executive order that bars foreign nationals from six countries from entering the United States for the next 90 days. After a chaotic rollout for the first attempt at a similar ban at the end of January, the White House aimed to apply some lessons from the initial backlash about confusion over the rules.
Some leaders in the travel industry applauded the revisions. “The travel ban is an improvement over the January 27th version, as it is narrower in scope and provides greater clarity about those travelers who would not be subject to the ban,” Michael W. McCormick, executive director and COO of the Global Business Travel Association, said in a statement. “The specific exemption for legal permanent residents, dual nationals, and current visa holders will help mitigate confusion for the international traveling public.”
The White House included some key differences in the new order. The new law bans foreign nationals from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen without valid visas from entering the U.S. Iraq, which was included in the first ban, is no longer part of the order. Another key difference in the new order is that travelers can plan ahead for its impact. While the first order went into effect immediately and wreaked havoc at airports, the new border controls are scheduled to go into effect on March 16.
“This executive order provides a needed pause so we can carefully review how we scrutinize people coming here from these countries of concern,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in an announcement of the new order.
Despite the changes, plenty of critics still have concerns over the order’s potentially damaging impact on perceptions of the U.S. as a welcoming nation. “The question remains 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,” Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel Association, said in a statement.
“Perceptions matter,” Dow continued in an email to the U.S. Travel community, “and the risk of reputational fallout is real in the travel industry.”
Will the New Executive Order Impact Your Event?
The executive order may prevent some speakers from appearing in person at events. If your organization is preparing to welcome an expert from one of the six countries included in President Trump’s new executive order, Carrie Johnson, Senior Program Manager of Education at PCMA, recommends using virtual technology to offer the same advanced-level education to your attendees — regardless of the realities of today’s travel industry. For assistance, check out “Virtual Speaker Management: A Best Practices Guide,” which can be found at the end of this article.
However, organizers’ concerns shouldn’t be confined to participants from the six countries listed on the official document. Dow’s focus on perception is a reminder that U.S.-based organizers must take steps to ensure that their attendees — particularly those from outside the U.S. — feel welcome. And that may be an uphill battle. As Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics, recently told The New York Times: “We’re going to be looking at a very challenging year for U.S. travel.” Citing President Trump’s words and actions, Sacks predicted that the annual number of foreign visitors to the U.S. could fall by 6.3 million by 2018.
More Uncertainty on the Horizon
There is no crystal ball for the number of future international travelers and conference attendees who will visit the U.S., but it seems clear that everyone should buckle up for an extended legal battle. The American Civil Liberties Union has already issued a statement on “his unconstitutional executive orders,” and it’s likely that this new order will find itself in an old place: a federal courtroom.
Stay tuned to pcma.org and pcmaconvene.org for all the latest development on the travel ban and how to prepare your organization for changes in U.S. border policies. In the meantime, go to Catalyst to share your thoughts on the issue.