Send The State Department Your $.02 Worth About New Extreme Vetting Measure! Now!
It Would force Disclosure of Social Media Activity and Other Info, affecting Some 14 Million Visitors—US Travel Tells RTO Summit East Delegates The More People Comment .. the Better
Patricia Rojas-Unger, vice president of public affairs for the U.S. Travel Association, addressing delegates at NAJ’s RTO Summit East last week in New York City, that a controversial U.S. State Department proposal which would ask visa applicants to provide details on the social media accounts (mostly Facebook and Twitter) they have used in the past five years, as well as telephone numbers, email addresses, and international travel during the same period, could be devastating to inbound travel.
The proposed State Department regulation would not affect the 38 countries that are a part of the Visa Waiver Program but would impact such key overseas source markets such as China, India and Brazil, as well as all of South America except for Chile.
Those affected by the proposed regulation—some 14 million people a year—would have to disclose all social media identities used in the past five years. The information would be used to identify and vet those seeking both immigrant and non-immigrant visas.
A summary of her presentation:
Where did this come from? The proposal has its roots in a directive issued on March 15, 2017 by then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson directing all consular chiefs to determine which populations of visa applicants should be subject to additional “extreme vetting” measures. It followed a March 6, 2017 “Travel Ban” Executive Order by President Donald Trump.
How will it Increase National Security? “We haven’t really heard from the State Department what this will do help increase national security,” said Rojas-Unger, who then went on to compare what the measure proposes vs. what steps already in place. She showed the following two charts.
It Could Feed the Rumor Mill: Some delegates brought up the point that, once you start vetting people from certain countries, the rumor will spread to Europe that the U.S. is an unwelcoming country and travelers may not want to visit because of this; also false rumors may spread and Visa Waiver countries may think the extreme vetting rules apply to all countries.
Proposed Visa Vetting Rules
The U.S. State Department is proposing to add the following requirements to the Nonimmigrant Visa Application Impacting 14 million travelers:
—Social media platform identifiers for the last five years;
—Telephone numbers used over the last 5 years;
—Email addresses used over the last 5 years;
—Addresses used over the last 5 years;
—International travel history over the last 5 years.
—Has the applicant been deported or removed from any country?
—Has your spouse, son or daughter been involved in terrorist activities?
Current Vetting Guidelines
Visa applicants “who have been determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national-security related visa ineligibilities” are already subject to the following:
—Travel history during the last 15 years, including source of funding for travel;
—Address history during the last 15 years;
—Employment history during the last 15 years;
—All passport numbers and country of issuance held by the applicant;
—Names and dates of birth for all siblings;
—Names and dates of birth for all children;
—Names and dates of birth for all current and former spouses, or civil or domestic partners;
—Social media platforms and identifiers, also known as handles, used during the last 5 years; and
—Phone numbers and email addresses used during the last 5 years.
What has US Travel Been Doing? US Travel and its partners have been going through normal channels of communication as it tries to persuade the State Department to roll back the reach of some of its provisions. The association is also working to develop an estimate of the economic impact to the proposed new regulation. “We can be successful if we can articulate the economic cost” of the proposal, said Rojas-Unger, noting that the organization is doing a survey of international travelers to gauge the economic impact of the measure.
What Can We do?
But, she noted, in the interim, nothing will help make the case for withdrawing the proposed regulation like comments from those who would likely be impacted by it. And since this is not a legislative proposal acted on by Congress, the old adage, “Call your Member of Congress and let him or her know how you stand,” does not apply. One has to go to the website page dedicated to the regulation and make a comment.
Tour and travel industry professionals are urged to go to https://www.regulations.gov/. This will bring you to this page:
Once you have arrived at the above, enter into the search box “DOS-2018-0002” This should take you to the following:
Once you have reached the above, click on “Comment Now!” button at the lower right, and leave your comment. Rojas-Unger stressed that, when tour and travel industry professionals post their remarks, the most powerful comments are those from industry members that stress the economic impact of the proposal–enumerating how it will negatively affect their business in a way that may cause them to reduce staff.
Will China Ban Travel to the United States?
Some in the Tour and Travel Industry Think So: After a brief reference to the current “trade war” between China and the U.S., in which each country has raised tariffs on goods that they import from each other, Yiling Pan, associate editor of Jing Travel—a publication that covers trends among Chinese travelers, especially luxury travelers—told delegates to NAJ’s RTO Summit East last week in New York that “if it keeps up, China is likely to have a travel ban on the United States.”
Some in the audience, which appeared to be paying close attention to Pan’s remarks, seemed stunned, although most appeared not to grasp what she said. So Pan rephrased her point, explaining that, if the back-and-forth trade war between the U.S. and China continues, “it could hurt sentiments about the United States” and result in a reduction of travel to the USA.
Recalling what Happened to South Korea: To bolster her point, Pan recalled developments over the past two years in which travel to Japan dropped following a confrontation between the two countries over China’s increased military presence in the South China Sea and Japan’s decision to increase its military spending and take steps to ensure its access to maritime routes in the South China Sea.
According to an item in the online news publication Quartz, “The South China Sea is the one of the world’s chokepoints for oil and natural gas. Nearly 60 percent of Japan’s energy supplies pass through the sea, largely from the Middle East nations, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, and, increasingly, Iran. Coal from Indonesia also passes through, as does corn, wheat, and barley from Australia and the Black Sea region. That makes Japan’s economy vulnerable to disruptions, should China ever block shipments through that route, whether in peacetime or in some future conflict.”
The situation was tense enough in the fall of 2017 to trigger a decline in travel to Japan from China, a development facilitated, somewhat, by lingering negative attitudes toward Japan by many Chinese. According to a Pew Research Center survey at the time, 81 percent of Chinese held unfavorable views about Japan, up from 70 percent ten years earlier. At the same time, 86 percent of Japanese held unfavorable views of the Chinese, a substantial increased from the 71 percent who held such views a decade prior to the survey. As such, no official position by the Chinese was needed to turn Chinese travelers away from Japan. Only lately have inbound arrivals to Japan from China started to recover.
The THAAD Factor: What made the situation with South Korea markedly worse was that the Chinese government was loudly and consistently critical of South Korea’s decision to install the U.S.-developed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in the country. THAAD is an anti-ballistic missile defense system designed to shoot down short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in their terminal phase (descent or reentry) by intercepting with a hit-to-kill approach.
South Korea refused to abandon its plans for the system and, finally, the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) in early March 2017 called travel agencies in Beijing for a meeting and gave them verbal instructions to suspend sales of all travel packages, both online and offline, to South Korea. As the following chart shows, the results were drastic.
But the situation has improved. According to an article last week in the Korea Herald, in February 2017, the number of Chinese arrivals came to 614,000 before nose-diving to 379,000 and 243,000 in March and April the same year, respectively. While China still opposes THAAD, diplomatic relations between the two countries—aided by a surge in Lunar New Year’s travel to South Korea, as well as visits by Chinese travelers to attend to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games—have improved. China has eased the ban and, the number of Chinese people visiting South Korea gained 16.5 percent from a month earlier to 427,628 in March. Compared to a year ago, March arrivals increased by 18 percent growth.
Could it Happen to the USA? If the “trade war” environment does not improve, Pan said, “we expect the same thing to happen to the U.S.” Few among the RTO Summit delegates seemed willing to venture an opinion on the probability, although Lian Liu, who heads up Hippo International, a marketing organization that specializes in promoting Chinese travel to the United States, noted that any ban would have to likely require an official government advisory to travel agents not to sell tours to the U.S. And, for the moment, that does not appear likely to take place.
Several delegates in the audience with expertise in the Chinese market tended to agree with Liu, with one pointing out that, were a travel ban within the realm of possibility, it would probably be preceded by a government-authorized campaign in the state-run news media that would be critical of the United States. And that has not happened … yet.
Faces of the RTO Summit East—Part One
The first day of NAJ’s RTO Summit East served up an agenda of subjects that were particularly topical and had delegates at the sold-out event showing up in the face of inhospitable weather and stubbornly cold temperatures that had many wondering if it was still winter in New York City. More than a few of those who attended the day’s program had to work through flight and/or rail disruptions to make it to the Wyndham New Yorker hotel in Manhattan. But show up they did. From the events two days, here’s a photo selection from Day One, which revolved about a full schedule of presentations, panel discussions and roundtable exchanges.
—Next week, we’ll have photos from Day Two of the RTO Summit East—
IPW Preview +What New Destinations Were Booked by Tour Operators From Last Year’s IPW
Until the right model fed by the latest numbers from the key metrics are developed, measuring the real-time health and activity of the USA’s inbound tour and travel industry is going to remain a dynamic process of guessing and extrapolating, relying on data and measurements that seem to be right more often than they are not.
IPW is one of those measurements. And based on what the person who oversees the event—US Travel’s senior vice president of business development and general manager of IPW, Malcom Smith—told delegates NAJ’s RTO Summit last week in New York, some source markets are down and a few are up as it seems that operators are trying to put a disappointing 2017 and (so far) 2018 behind them, scrambling to find Visit USA products and experiences that will resonate with key customer segments back home.
One key datum is that of the number of delegates overall, reflecting interest and/or demand on the part of both U.S. travel suppliers and international buyers. It’s been ranging from 6,000 to 6,400 in recent years, Smith noted, indicating that the number this year is going to be about 6,200.
Another data set involves the markets which are sending the most buyers. The Top Ten list is familiar. Based on the number of buyers they’re sending, they are as follows:
Nearly Two-Thirds of Last Year’s IPW Buyers Said They Expected to Book New Destinations: Not counting the 2017 host city of Washington, DC, 64 percent of buyers surveyed at last year’s IPW said that they expected to book into new U.S. destinations because of IPW. Here’s a tally illustrating the finding.
Survey Question: Which of the following destinations (that you had never booked to before) are you planning to book trips to as a result of your activity at IPW (percentage of buyers)?
Five to Seven percent of said they were booking to Atlantic City, Birmingham (Ala.), Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Cleveland, New Orleans, Raleigh, Cincinnati, Columbus, Detroit, Richmond (Va.)
Seven to Ten percent said they were booking to Charlotte, Long Island (N.Y.), Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Myrtle Beach, Jacksonville, Jersey Shore (N.J.), Oklahoma City, Sacramento
Ten to Fifteen percent said they were booking to Charleston (S.C.), Houston, San Diego, Savannah, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Baltimore, Seattle, Miami, San Antonio, Anaheim/Orange County, Ft. Lauderdale
More than Fifteen Percent said they were booking to Austin, Denver, Philadelphia, Dallas, Phoenix, Memphis, Nashville, Atlanta, Boston, Portland
What’s New this Year? Here are some notes based on Smith’s presentation:
- With the exception of United, U.S. air carriers have stepped back from IPW in recent years. As such, airlines based in Europe, the Middle East, Central and South America have stepped up. This year, airlines exhibiting at IPW include: United, WOW, Norwegian, Etihad, Emirates, Avianc and Copa.
- U.S. professional sports teams are increasingly popular overseas. An effort is now underway to convert those fans into visitors to the USA. This year, 24 teams from the NFL, Major League Baseball and professional soccer will have a presence at IPW—either through their presence in a booth with a destination cluster, tours of the event or passes to stop by and view it.
- At this year’s Sixth Annual Chairman’s Circle Honors—an occasion marked by an elaborate Saturday night dinner, 8 of the 57 honorees will be receptive tour operators.
- Under consideration for coming years are themed locations for groups of suppliers with common themes or interests, such as Native Americans and Shopping Centers and Outlets.
- The challenge in the future will be: “How do we bring value to the show without changing its essence?”
Advice from Malcolm: Of the bits of advice Smith dished out when questioned by RTO Summit attendees, two stood out. First, IPW delegates should network with people in their aisle; when you know someone in your aisle, it is easier to make, send and receive referrals. Second, do your homework—do your research—on who you’re meeting with at IPW so you won’t spend a large part of your 20-minute appointment merely exchanging introductory information
Celebrating IPW at 50 Years: What Was Your Most Memorable Moment? Michael Fisher and Billie Moser
As we prepare to gather in Denver May 19-23 for the 50th edition of IPW—the most important event on the inbound tour and travel industry’s calendar—the INBOUND Report shares recollections of and about the event from those who have been a part of IPW (formerly Pow Wow) over the years. This week, we feature the recollections of two veteran tour and travel industry professionals: former Allied Tours executive Michael Fisher, president of Travelenergy and a member of the board of directors of Bonotel Exclusive Travel; and Billie Moser, vice president of international tourism for Travel Portland.
Michael Fisher: “I can go back to my first Pow Wow in 1975 in Boston. Allied Tours (founded by Michael’s father, Stanley, and a progenitor of today’s AlliedTPro) was introducing its Experience America escorted tours program. The symbol on our brochure cover was a cowboy hat. We had the idea to bring about 100 hats to hand out. It would be great to have the delegates walking around with our hats. So, we shipped a few boxes to the convention center and had them stored behind our booth, ready to give out the next day. When we arrived in the morning, they were all gone, and I saw a few of the convention workers wearing the hats, strutting around like cowboys. Every other IPW has some unique memory, and I am looking forward to the next one in Denver.”
Billie Moser: “During the Pow Wows in the mid-1990s, my still very good friend Natalie Inouye and I shared rooms because of our organizations’ small budgets. Natalie and I always got the best rooms. We did not know why. At the time, Senator Daniel Inouye from Hawaii was a very influential member in Congress, especially for our industry. One day, she was asked: ‘Are you related to Senator Inouye?’ And while Natalie is not Hawaiian (her husband is), she said: ‘Oh yes, I’m his niece.’ And the mystery was solved. We surely enjoyed the extravagant fruit baskets, the incredible views from our hotels and wish we could have milked this longer.”
“Three Swipes With Your Thumb and You’re Talking to a Real person.”
New app that helps travelers with instant, real-time translation to Debut at IPW Denver. TourOperatorland.com, a division of NAJ Group, publishers of INBOUND Report, will introduce Jeenie™, the first “live interpreter in your pocket” App to the tour and travel industry from our booth (#343) at IPW this year.
The person driving the new product is Kirsten Brecht Baker, Jeenie’s CEO. A multilingual graduate of the Wharton School of Finance, where she received her MBA, Baker has been behind several start-up initiatives during the past decade. Jeenie, just five months old, is an outgrowth of another young firm, Global Professional Search (GPS), that was launched with the notion of matching employers with candidates who have language skills. Using technology and algorithms to make matching more effective, she sensed a real demand for language skills that could be addressed “every day in the palm of the hand.”
“We’re putting live human interpreter on anyone’s smart phone to provide them with language skills and cultural advice, she told INBOUND. “It’s uber for language services … for customers who need an interpreter right away.”
How does it work? Essentially, said Baker, “it’s three swipes with your thumb and you’re talking to a real person through Facetime of simply audio.”
More on what Jeenie has to offer in the next issue of INBOUND. You can meet Kirsten at IPW in Booth 343.
Receptive Tour Operator of the Month
132 Boylston Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02116
Founded in 1986, TourMappers is a full-service receptive tour company, wholesaling North American FIT product and customized group tour packages to the international tour operator. Its in-house staff is multilingual, and able to service tour operator clients in French, German, Italian, and Spanish, in addition to English. TourMappers offers the most and broadest range properties that are characteristic to various destinations, i.e. Lodges in the Northwest, Plantations in the South, B&Bs in New England. Additionally, it provides a wide variety of Self-Drive programs and Experiential Escorted Tours.
The TourOperatorLand.com website by the NAJ Group (it also publishes the INBOUND Report) has introduced both receptive tour operators, U.S. tour operators and international tour operators to travel product and services of U.S. travel suppliers and DMOs. Visitors to the website can use its exclusive Receptive Finder™ to find the right RTO. It is designed to help both the travel trade and travel suppliers find the right U.S. based receptive tour operator to sell their products on the international travel market place.
The receptive operators, who are vetted and qualified by the NAJ Group also take part in at least one of NAJ’s RTO Summits series. The Summits take place annually in Los Angeles, New York City and Orlando. The next Summit takes place October 24-25, 2018 in Orlando. For more information, visit: www.TourOperatorLand.com.
At a Glance: Nashville, Tennessee
For full information Click Here
HODGE PODGE: Shifts, Shakeups and Occasional Shaftings in the Tour and Travel Industry
Penny McNamara has taken on the role of chief contracting officer for Meeting Point North America, which is a subsidiary of the German tour operator, the FTI Group. She makes the move after spending 15 years with Hotelbeds and Access USA. Most recently, she was regional director of product for Florida and Puerto Rico for Hotelbeds.
David Alexander recently joined OTS Globe in Orlando after leaving Visit Orlando, where he was director of travel industry sales. Previously, he served as regional director, strategic customer development-Americas, for Hotelbeds. He had been with Hotelbeds for nearly a decade.
As the journey to a new future for those managers who’ve recently left Hotelbds continues, it has been announced that Enrique Lozano has joined World2Meet (W2M), the operator which is a part of the Iberostar Group, as regional director for Catalonia and Andorra, Spain. Lozano joins from Hotelbeds, where he served for 16 years. Both Hotelbeds and W2M are headquartered in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. According to the Spanish travel trade news site preferente.com, some 40 managers have lost their jobs following the reorganization of the company in the wake of its acquisitions of Tourico Hoidays and GTA.
Jeff Vahle has been named president of Disney Signature Experiences, which includes Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club, Adventures by Disney and Aulani, a Disney Resort in Hawaii. A 28-year veteran of Disney Company, he replaces Karl Holz, who had served in a similar post, and retired last year. Vahle most recently served as executive vice president-facilities and operations services at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts for more than seven years from 2011 until now. He was senior vice president of the same unit from 2006 to 2011. He served as general manager of Disney’s Animal Kingdom for one year, from 1997 to 1998.
Air Canada Vacations has appointed Dana Gain to the role of senior director of sales, groups and partnerships. She joins Air Canada Vacations from Norwegian Cruise Line where she oversaw all aspects of their sales and marketing strategy. Gain has nearly 30 years of experience in new global business development, national sales force leadership, and global market expansion. She will report to directly to Nino Montagnese and will be based out of Air Canada Vacations’ Mississauga office.
Renaud Lenne has joined the sales team of the French tour operator, FTI Voyages, as head of the Nord region and Belgium. He succeeds Delphine Rouet, who is now dedicated to Ile-de-France and Normandy. Renaud Lenne previously worked as a salesman at And Tomorrow’s Sun-Selectour, and more recently at FRAM.
Gregg Gant has taken on a position as senior account executive at the Expedia Group. He joins the company from Travelzoo, where he was business development director, destinations, vacations and airlines. Gant has also served as senior trade manager for Tourism New Zealand.
Happy Work Anniversaries:
Darragh Flood celebrating 4 years at Destination America.
Rafael Villanueva pops the cork for 20 years with the Las Vegas CVA
Yvonne Eyking for 6 years with Global Hospitality Marketing Link.
Eric Hoogstins for 1 year at Outrigger Beach Resort
Debbie Gourley Kenton with 4 years at Tourico Holidays
Last week Miki Kawano celebrated 23 years with Trans Orbit USA
Franz Deutsch has now been with New York’s venerable Hotel Pennsylvania for 17 years.
ADRIENNE I CHIRON says
As usual, great info for researching people and projects.
Looking forward to Orlando.