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Are US Travel Restrictions Keeping Visitors Away?

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Tourists walk around the base of the Washington Monument on Presidents Day weekend as the sunsets Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
Tourists walk around the base of the Washington Monument on Presidents Day weekend as the sunsets Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

America’s travel industry says it fears new restrictions on foreign visitors to the United States will harm U.S. tourism.

President Donald Trump approved the travel restrictions. They affect people from some Muslim majority nations.

But online searches for flights to the United States are down in most major nations, not just those affected by the travel order.

Some rights groups have criticized the travel restrictions, saying they unfairly target Muslim visitors. The rules led to protests around the country and legal action. U.S. courts have temporarily blocked enforcement of Trump’s travel orders.

Patricia Rojas-Ungar is with the U.S. Travel Association. She says tourism is a very competitive business. She says the U.S. tourism industry will be hurt if foreigners fear coming to America.

“Travelers have a choice and, if they feel any concern or anxiety about traveling to a destination, they can very well pick another destination to go.”

Rojas-Ungar said even people in countries not covered by the restrictions could be afraid to plan a U.S. trip. She added that worried travelers going elsewhere could affect the economic health of many states.

“Travel and tourism is a top economic driver for the U.S. economy. It’s a $2.1 trillion dollar industry, and we support 15.1 million American jobs...”

Rojas-Ungar added that tourism creates many jobs that cannot be exported. They include positions in restaurants and hotels. She said she hopes the Trump administration will make travel policies clearer in the future.

She would also like to see more efforts by U.S. officials to extend a warmer welcome to visitors.

Tourists gather to photograph the Wall Street Bull in the New York Financial District, Jan. 12, 2017.
Tourists gather to photograph the Wall Street Bull in the New York Financial District, Jan. 12, 2017.

Andrew Coggins studies travel issues. He is a professor at Pace University in New York City. Coggins says the restrictions are likely to keep many foreign visitors and students away because of fears they could face bigotry and prejudice.

Even if the travel rules keep getting revised, as they did once before, he said the message sent will not be easy to change.

“The damage has been done,” he said. “I think the resentment is there. It has been generated and it is not going to go away that fast.”

Coggins says New York City alone could see hundreds of thousands fewer visitors and lose millions of dollars.

Refugee supporters look on after Abdisellam Hassen Ahmed, a Somali refugee who had been stuck in limbo after President Donald Trump temporarily banned refugee entries, arrives at Salt Lake International Airport, in Salt Lake City, Feb. 10, 2017.
Refugee supporters look on after Abdisellam Hassen Ahmed, a Somali refugee who had been stuck in limbo after President Donald Trump temporarily banned refugee entries, arrives at Salt Lake International Airport, in Salt Lake City, Feb. 10, 2017.

Juhel Miah, a British citizen and mathematics teacher, brought attention to the issue after he was removed from an airplane. He and a group of students were going to a school trip to America.

Miah told VOA he is still not sure why he was prevented from visiting the United States.

“I really think I was being targeted. Is that because of my name? Is that because of the way I look or the color of my skin? Who knows? I do not know.”

He added that many other teachers have contacted him and are considering canceling plans to visit the U.S. with their students.

But he has also received encouraging emails from Americans, including one from a fifth-grader in Atlanta. The teacher said these reactions still make him want to visit America very much.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Jim Randle reported this story for VOANews.com. Bryan Lynn adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

Words in This Story

tourism – n. the activity of traveling to a place for pleasure

anxietyn. a feeling of being worried

bigotry n. act of having strong and unfair dislike of others

resentment n. feeling of anger about something viewed as unfair

encouragingadj. causing a feeling of hope and confidence

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