Trump signs second travel ban, industry braces for impact

A new travel ban has been signed into effect by President Donald Trump, targeting six Muslim-majority countries for a period of 90 days.

The new ban seems similar to the ban issued Jan. 27 with a few changes, one of which is that it isn't going live immediately (the first ban went live at 4:42 p.m. on a Friday afternoon), and instead will take effect March 16. The new ban also includes a 120-day stoppage of all refugees, and removes Iraq from the list of nations prohibited from entering the U.S. for 90 days. This list still includes familiar faces Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

A statement from White House officials states that Iraq has been removed from the list of banned countries due to improvements made to its visa-screening and data-sharing processes. The new ban also says refugees already approved by the State Department will be granted entry into the U.S., and lifts the indefinite ban placed on all Syrian refugees. Green card holders from the countries named in the ban will be unaffected, and unlike the order released on Jan. 27, there will be no priorities given to religious minorities.

This is still a polarizing order, but for the traveling public it could be seen as more acceptable overall. The January executive order was criticized for giving special concessions to Christian refugees and suspended existing visas and green cards, something the new ban is backtracking on. However, concrete evidence exists on the effect the first ban had on inbound travel, and the mere announcement of a new ban caused bookings to fall 4 percent in February year-over-year, with travel from the Middle East, Europe and Africa receding. 

Also, the White House is providing more than a week to prepare for the next order to go into effect—generous compared to the unforeseen chaos experienced on Jan. 27. President Trump previously defended the impulsive executive order the first time around, tweeting "if the ban were announced with a one-week notice, the 'bad' would rush into our country during that week."

Take Two

But is it working? Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, voiced his support of the new executive order in a prepared statement.

"The American travel community supports efforts to bolster national security, and the Trump administration deserves some credit for the substantially more cautious and deliberate introduction of the revised executive order," Dow said. "Cabinet officials were on the right track with public statements welcoming lawful visa holders into the U.S. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the administration fully seized the opportunity to differentiate between the potential security risks targeted by the order and the legitimate business and leisure visitors from abroad who support 15.1 million American jobs.

"Clearly this revised order is very encouraging news if you’re looking to come to the U.S. from Iraq," Dow said. "The question remains whether the revised order did enough to mollify the prospective traveler from Canada, Europe, or elsewhere around the world who may have been put off by the initial travel ban. If undecided voters need to hear certain things to be motivated to get out and vote, then the same is true for undecided travelers."

The Global Business Travel Association similarly released a statement on the order, taking a stance of cautious optimism and taking to polling its general membership on the expected impact on business that a second ban would create.

“This travel ban is an improvement over the January 27th version, as it is narrower in scope and provides greater clarity about those travelers who would not be subject to the ban,” Michael W. McCormick, GBTA executive director and COO, said in a statement. “The specific exemption for legal permanent residents, dual nationals and current visa holders will help mitigate confusion for the international traveling public.

“Any increased restrictions on passenger travel must be based in safety and security to ensure that the ability to travel is not impeded unnecessarily," McCormick said. "It will remain a focus of the business travel industry to hold disruptions to a minimum, and we will continue to monitor the implementation of this ban closely.”

On the Defensive

But don't get too comfortable with this brand of chaos: The March 16 ban may have more in common with the Jan. 27 ban than the White House wants you to believe, and the newcomer may not withstand legal challenges to come. The previous ban failed because of botched timing, indiscriminate targeting and an unclear purpose. The second ban seeks to power through by eliminating its weakest aspects, but now it's carrying baggage as an extension of a failed plan, something it's critics are sure to capitalize on.

Not one to wait, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a statement that he and his office are willing to see the Trump administration in court over the ban.

"While the White House may have made changes to the ban, the intent to discriminate against Muslims remains clear," Schneiderman said in a statement. "My office is closely reviewing the new executive order, and I stand ready to litigate— again—in order to protect New York's families, institutions and economy."