In light of recent news regarding several countries being barred from travel to the U.S., many travel and tourism organizations released statements about the harm this ban will do to the industry and beyond. Peter Pantuso, CTIS, President & CEO of the American Bus Association, offers his thoughts.
On June 26, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to uphold the Trump Administration's travel ban on nationals from seven countries from entering the United States. While the Supreme Court looked at the merits of the travel ban from the perspective of whether it was within the scope of presidential authority, it seems America now has an economic and public relations nightmare.
Instead of showing America is open for business, this decision sends the wrong message and could have a negative economic and cultural impact. While we agree the security of our nation is the No. 1 priority, we also recognize security comes from having a strong thriving economy, which international tourism supports. In short, there needs to be a balance.
Since the Trump Administration started floating the idea of a travel ban, tourism over the last 18 months to the United States has fallen—not just from those seven countries but from around the world. Foreign tourists and students account for roughly 80 percent of total non-immigrant visas issued by the U.S. each year. They spur demand for goods and services, which helps power our economy, tourism industry and higher education system.
Currently, motorcoach travel and tourism generates more than 1.4 million jobs in communities across the United States, paying more than $62 billion in wages and benefits. When the United States gives the impression that we are not open for business or that only certain people can come visit, those jobs become endangered as foreigners choose to visit other, more welcoming countries.
I—and many of my colleagues in the travel industry—believe that yes, security of our nation should be the No. 1 priority. But the way to ensure a secure nation is through checkpoints and vetting visitors; not shutting our doors. There are legitimate business travelers, families and students from these nations as well as others, who come to the United States because we promote being the land of the free, "give me your tired and hungry" and other democratic values that most nations do not have. They come to the United States to be educated about our history, our lives and our future. By shutting the door to thousands of potential visitors and discouraging other potential visitors with these bans, we are actually upholding the stereotypes that those who want to harm our way of life project onto us.
The freedom of travel and opportunity to learn new cultures, new foods, new ways of life should not be taken for granted; that is what keeps people safe. It is when people remain ignorant or are treated like outsiders that breeds hate and discontent.
In the wake of this ruling, the Trump Administration still has the opportunity to clarify that the U.S. does welcome legitimate international travelers, and we hope it will consider further action to demonstrate America is truly "open for business."
It is not only our economy and way of life that is at stake here, but also creating a stronger understanding of different peoples and cultures in the world's most famous melting pots. One of the best ways to learn about a culture and meeting new and different people is through group travel, especially on a motorcoach.
The social aspects of group travel on a motorcoach bring people from all walks of life and different cultures together in a safe and welcoming environment.
Written by Peter Pantuso, CTIS, President & CEO of the American Bus Association.