At about the same time that a U.S. Appellate Court panel of three judges ruled on Feb. 9 against President Donald Trump’s ban on nationals from seven mostly Muslim countries entering the USA, data measuring the impact of the measure, which was implemented in a Jan. 27 executive order signed by Trump, showed that the President and his policies appeared to be a deterrent to travelers from countries around the world. This was the general finding of a study conducted by ForwardKeys, the travel intelligence analyst, which monitors travel patterns by analyzing 16 million flight reservation transactions a day. The numbers speak for themselves:
The findings show that after President Trump’s initial travel ban (imposed on January 27) net bookings issued from those seven countries (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen) between January 28 and February 4 were down 80 percent over the same period last year.
ForwardKeys also looked at wider international trends in bookings to the USA and discovered a 6.5 percent negative variation compared with the equivalent eight-day period the year before. (The analysis excluded China and Hong Kong because of the seasonal effect due to the timing of Chinese New Year.)
—Bookings from Northern Europe were down 6.6 percent.
—Bookings from Western Europe were down 13.6 percent.
—Bookings from Southern Europe down 2.9 percent.
—Bookings from the Middle East were down 37.5 percent.
—Bookings from Asia Pacific down 14 percent.
If one analyzes total outbound bookings from each of those regions to provide a benchmark, in every case, the USA has lost market share as total outbound travel from Northern Europe was flat, from Western Europe was down 1 percent, from Southern Europe was up 3.1 percent, from the Middle East was down 13 percent, and from Asia Pacific was down 8.9 percent.
Against this trend, bookings from Central/Eastern Europe and the Americas were up 15.8 percent and 2.3 percent respectively. However, when one looks again at outbound travel from those two regions of the world, total travel was up substantially, 12 percent from Central/Eastern Europe and 4.8 percent from the Americas so the increases in travel to the USA look less impressive from this perspective.
For the Middle East as a whole – beyond the banned countries – during the last year, bookings to the USA were already down 8.8 percent, but focusing on bookings issued from January 28 to February 4, they fell 38 percent. Bookings from Saudi Arabia were down 60 percent but the substantial decrease is probably due partly to a school break, from Jan 26 to Feb. 5, which fell at a different time last year.
While travel bookings on any given day can be significantly up or down compared to the same day a year before, variability over a few consecutive days is typically much less. The eight-day period coinciding with the travel ban is the first time since before the presidential election in early November that there has been a consistently long run of negative variations compared with the equivalent period the year before. For reference, inbound bookings to the USA for the whole of the past year were down 0.4 percent.
After Federal Judge James Robart placed a temporary block on Donald Trump’s travel ban on Feb. 3—it was upheld by the U.S. Appellate Court for the Ninth District which is based in San Francisco— bookings to the USA from Iran, on February 3 and 4, saw a dramatic surge, five times higher than the same two days last year. Most were for arrival on February 5 and 6 and with lengths of stay of 22 nights or more and, according to ForwardKeys data, Iran was the only country to see such a surge following the suspension of the ban.
Flight Searches down: In another report Hopper, a digital travel app, analyzed data which revealed that interest in travel to the United States had dropped sharply since Trump was inaugurated on January 20.
The app’s methodology is simple.
Hopper calculated a number of flight searches conducted two weeks before President Trump took office and the number of flight searches conducted two weeks afterward—making the period that was analyzed approximately Jan. 6 to Feb. 3. The app then broke down the data according to which airports were searched for and calculated the difference. During this same span of time, the Trump White House instituted the travel ban.
The results show that interest in travel to the United States declined 17 percent over the course of the tracked period. Understandably, searches really took a dive on the Saturday after the travel ban (Jan. 28). The data are based on averaging billions of flight searches, according to Hopper.
The Bottom Line: Hard data regarding the financial impact of the “Trump factor” and the ban were also hard to come by, but on Feb. 10, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) said the ban had cost the travel industry about $185 million in lost business. GBTA estimates that was the amount lost in the week following the executive order.
The association said travel business grew 1.2 percent in the week preceding the ban and dipped by 2.2 percent after the ban was announced.
A previous survey by GBTA found about 30 percent of members expected to see less overseas business travel during the next three months and almost as many believe low demand could linger for the rest of the year.