President Donald Trump is all about business, but one of his first actions prompted a slump in business travel to the U.S.
Numerous reports show interest in both business and leisure travel to the U.S. declined since Trump took office. But there was an especially dramatic plunge after he signed a now-suspended executive order on travel Jan. 27 that barred some immigrants and visitors from majority Muslim nations from entering the country, according to data from the travel site Hopper.
The U.S. lost about $185 million in business travel bookings the week after Trump’s travel ban took effect, according to a report from the Global Business Travel Association, which represents corporate travel managers and professionals. Business travel to and from the U.S. had been increasing the week before the ban was instated, but it decreased the week after by more than two percent.
That may sound like a small percentage, but it’s a yuge deal: For every 1 percent change in business travel spending annually, the U.S. loses 71,000 jobs and nearly $5 billion in gross domestic product, according to the GBTA.
Other economists found that Los Angeles County alone could lose the equivalent of $736 million in tourism spending over three years as a result of Trump’s travel ban, The New York Times reported.
“There was too much uncertainty and a lack of clarity around the executive order, leading to general confusion,” the GBTA wrote in a blog post. “The net effect was that business travel bookings were delayed or canceled.”
About half of its European members reported their companies plan to cut back on business travel over the next three months, the GBTA said. The group was polled before a judge issued a temporary restraining order that halted Trump’s ban.
Dips in travel happen often, of course, but it appears Trump’s travel ban is the specific cause for this one. Hannah Sampson, a business travel analyst at Skift, says her conversations with corporate leaders are further proof: Many don’t want to send their employees overseas for fear Trump will pull another ban that could leave them stuck, she says.
“Companies who are responsible for travelers just don’t want to take the risk,” Sampson told HuffPost. “There’s a lot of overarching caution right now.”
It’s ironic that a president promising to bolster U.S. businesses would cause a dip in business travel. Overall travel is taking a hit right along with it, according Hopper’s analysis of searches from multiple engines.
As of Feb. 22, flight searches to the U.S. from other countries had declined 17 percent since Trump’s inauguration, compared to Barack Obama’s final weeks in office, Hopper said. There was a mere 1.8 percent decline over a similar time period in 2016, and a 5 percent decline over a similar period in 2015. According to the Times, Cheapflights.com saw international searches for flights to the U.S. drop 38 percent in the three days after Trump signed the executive order.
This fluctuation is not normal, according to Hopper: “There is more than a simple seasonal variation going on,” a spokesman told HuffPost in a statement.
Searches dropped significantly following the travel ban in 103 of the 122 countries for which Hopper has data, with an average drop of 22 percent.
In an extremely abnormal surge, flight searches from Russian travelers rose a whopping 88 percent from three weeks before the inauguration through Feb. 7.