A specialist US tour operator has called on the travel industry to collectively push the message the US is a “safe and welcoming country” following new restrictions on people travelling to the country.
US Airtours has already contacted tourist bodies and airlines to discuss a co-ordinated marketing approach following US president Donald Trump’s new Executive Order, a temporary travel ban on people travelling from seven predominantly Muslim countries to the US.
Chief executive Guy Novik admitted the ban could damage tourism to the US and said the trade needed to work together to minimise the impact.
He said: “This might be one of those occasions where we need to acknowledge that we know it’s going to have a negative effect and impact people. Let’s not fan the flames, just find a way [to deal with it].
“We want to reassure consumers the US is safe and welcoming. The industry can’t control what comes out of the White House but we all collectively sell the US and spend a considerable amount promoting the US.”
He said his tour operator was already feeding calls from travel agents and holidaymakers who have booked trips to the US and wanted to know if there were any measures they needed to take prior to their trip.
“We have had calls from people who are either Muslim or from an ethic background, all of whom have their ESTA [visa waiver form] but were concerned as to whether or not their trip could be cancelled and was still valid. They wanted to know if they should take any further steps,” said Novik.
Novik admitted the speed at which the immigration clampdown had come into force had caused confusion.
“I think this was done too swiftly and confusion was caused,” he added.
Meanwhile, flight and travel search website Cheapflights has reported that following President Trump’s first week in office it has seen searches for travel to the US drop 15%. The fall is based on searches for travel to the US in the week commencing January 21 compared to the previous week.
Managing director Andrew Shelton said: “On the face of it, our data suggests Brits are voicing their disapproval of the president with their clicks.
“It’s too early to point to a ‘Trump Slump’ but ….if this trend continues then the US tourism authorities shouldn’t necessarily presume Brits will be thinking ‘America First’ when it comes to their holiday plans this year with quite the same certainty as they have in the past.”
He added that the drop was against a backdrop of a year-on-year increase of 19% in traffic to the site, driven by rises in searches for destinations like Canada, Mexico, Thailand, South Africa, Dubai and the western Mediterranean.
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