Meetings Hit Hardest as US Travel Industry Set to Lose $1.3 Billion in 2017

Since the announcement of President Donald Trump’s first travel ban in February, travel leaders have warned against its potential impact on the industry. One week after the executive order was signed, Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) reported that the travel ban caused the United States to lose $185 million in bookings in one week. Although the travel ban and its successor were both halted in the courts, international travelers remain unsure if they will be welcomed in the United States—and it’s causing them to rethink their travel plans.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) followed that up in March with a ban on in-cabin personal electronic devices, commonly referred to as the “laptop ban.” The initial ban applies to flights coming to the United States from certain airlines and airports in the Middle East and North Africa. Industry experts decried the ban, stating that the policy damages the productivity of business travelers and discourages travel to the United States. DHS is currently considering expanding the ban to include flights from Europe—a move which could lead to losses totaling $1 billion.

Naturally, these policies are impacting the travel industry. A new GBTA study predicts a loss of more than $1.3 billion in travel-related expenditures in the United States in 2017. This includes expenses from lodging, dining, shopping and transportation such as rental cars. The study indicates that around $250 million of the losses will be due to fewer business travelers from Europe and Middle East. An estimated 4,200 jobs are in jeopardy.

Of greatest concern in the GBTA study is the long-term impact on meetings and events. In a previous survey, 45 percent of GBTA’s European members indicated that travel-related executive orders have made their company less willing to plan meetings and events in the United States. Policies such as the laptop ban greatly inconvenience business travelers—according to GBTA, nearly half of passengers flying for business prefer to stay connected and work while in the air. The United States has long been a leading destination for corporate meetings, but its future is now in question.