US border entry policies hit travel and spending

US border entry policies hit travel and spending

The Trump administration’s border entry policies are hitting travel to the US, latest figures confirm.

The US 90-day ban on travel from six mainly Muslim countries remains suspended following its reintroduction in March. But visitors from all countries, including visa-waiver members, may be put off by reports that international travellers could be forced to hand over phone contacts and social media passwords before being allowed entry.

Data from airfare analytics company Hopper shows online searches for international round-trips to the US dropped sharply following the first executive order banning travellers from Muslim-majority countries in January.

The Financial Times this week quoted a Hopper data scientist as saying: “We’ve almost never seen the negative impact of an event in the news cycle like this.

“Even when there is an event like a terrorist attack we normally see an uptick in searches because people are confirming, changing or cancelling their plans.”

Air bookings data analyst ForwardKeys reported in March: “Imposition of the travel ban caused a 6.5% slump in bookings to the US in the following days. When the ban was struck down there was a recovery. As soon as plans for a new ban were announced, bookings again fell.”

US National Travel and Tourism Office figures show a 1% fall year on year in purchases of travel and tourism services by international visitors to the US in January. US airline fare receipts from international visitors also fell 1%.

The figures appeared amid persistent reports that visitors entering the US on the visa waiver programme could be expected to disclose personal data and denied entry if they refuse.

US Customs and Border Protection proposed a voluntary requirement for visitors to disclose such data last June after the US Congress passed legislation in late 2015 adding restrictions to the visa waiver programme.

A request to disclose social media activities on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Linkedin and YouTube was then added to the US Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (Esta) in December.

In January, US TV news channel CNN reported the White House was exploring measures to scan the social media accounts and mobile phone contacts of all visitors to the US.

In February, Homeland Security secretary John Kelly told the US House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee that if visitors “don’t want to give us that information, they don’t come”.

The Wall Street Journal reported this month that the Trump administration is discussing “extreme vetting” of foreign visitors, including of phone contacts, social media passwords and financial records.

It reported: “The changes could apply to people from all over the world, including [visa-waiver countries] France and Germany.”

World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) president and chief executive David Scowsill told Travel Weekly last month: “The US is sending out this message that it is not open for business. There is definitely a Trump effect on the travel and tourism economy.

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