Much of the event and travel industry was surprised on Sept. 12 when the United States Supreme Court announced the Trump Administration would be allowed to enforce a travel ban for refugees from six Muslim countries in advance of an expected hearing on the issue October 10.
The court blocked a federal appeals court ruling that would have exempted banned refugees from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen who have a “contractual commitment” from resettlement organizations, a decision that could impact as many as 24,000 people and hinder some international meetings in the United States.
John Graham, Center for Association Leadership (ASAE) president and CEO, said the following day that the announcement just added to the confusion around travel and could have a negative effect on the event industry. “We still don’t know the definition of a relationship as it relates to events,” he said. “If someone is a confirmed speaker can they enter the country? What if they are member of an association?”
Graham says his members are reaching out to him to ask for clarification and he has asked the State Department for guidance. “At least with the blanket travel ban, we knew the lay of the land. Now people are worried that they won’t be allowed in the country, or once they get here, they won’t be able to get back out.
The impact might be felt most strongly in the scientific and academic community, Graham warned. Researchers from around the world meet regularly to share information. “Confusion can lead to doubts and doubts can lead to cancelled meetings,” he said.
The same day, Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO of Meeting Professionals International, reiterated his call for balance in travel policy. “Our position is the same. MPI believes that it’s critical to strike the right balance between enhanced security and travel facilitation,” he said. “We continue to encourage the administration to enhance our country’s safety, while also promoting it as a welcoming destination for international travelers. We look forward to hearing more from the Supreme Court on the legality of the travel ban in October.”