For many attendees, getting from here to there requires obtaining approval for a visa, and an upcoming incentive trip for Nu Skin highlights the increasing number of problems with the paperwork. According to a recent Honolulu Star-Advertiser report, more than 2,000 qualified Nu Skin distributors from China and Hong Kong were unable to secure approval to travel to Hawaii. “Currently, China has some of the strictest visa policies for travelers looking to leave the country for business or leisure in the United States,” Leslie Dance, vice president of marketing and product development for the Hawaii Tourism Authority, told PCMA via email. “It is unclear why the denial rate was higher than the past with this recent group from China.”
The Nu Skin event isn’t the only example of increased visa challenges for attendees traveling to the United States. In March, the African Global Economic and Development Summit — an annual event that unites African entrepreneurs with investors in California — felt the sting of a serious decline in attendance when every attendee from Africa saw their visa application rejected.
As organizers in the United States aim to increase international attendance numbers, the current travel climate is presenting some challenges. Analysts estimate that President Trump’s proposed temporary travel ban could cost up to $18 billion in international tourist dollars over the next two years. “On multiple fronts — diplomacy, trade, border control, visa policy — international markets are receiving a message that America is no longer a welcoming destination,” Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics, told USA Today.
Dance told PCMA that the U.S. Visa Waiver Program has “greatly helped to resolve prior challenges of traveling to Hawaii from international destinations.” However, she also highlighted that the Electronic System for Travel Authorization’s website notes that “the visa application process has recently become more complex due to increased scrutiny of most applications from non-visa waiver countries.”
“It’s a fluid situation that we are continuing to monitor,” Dance said.
Despite the challenges for Nu Skin attendees, Dance said that so far, the bottom-line impact on Hawaii’s meetings and conventions business has been minimal. She said that Hawaii will focus on continuing to articulate an inspiring marketing message in its efforts to connect with prospective attendees. “We celebrate diversity and honor culture, and those core values are ingrained within our state and how we live,” Dance said. “For those like us who believe freedom to travel is a right, we also believe it encourages understanding and acceptance of people around the world.”
President Trump’s travel ban is currently suspended based on a ruling from a federal judge in Hawaii, but what might happen if it’s reinstated? Check out “What the Travel Ban Could Mean for Scientific Meetings” in Convene.