The chief executive of Marriott International warns that President Donald Trump’s immigration policies are damaging the U.S. tourism industry because foreign travelers are avoiding America.
Arne Sorenson, chief executive of Marriott International, told the Financial Times that there were signs that “companies and conferences were also choosing to host events in other countries due to the uncertainty over restrictions on entry” to the U.S.
Trump’s quest to impose a travel ban on visitors from some countries harmed America’s reputation as a “friendly” destination.
“The [new U.S. administration’s] actions around travel are not helpful,” Sorenson told the Financial Times at the official opening of Marriott Marquis hotel in Houston, Texas. “There’s no doubt about that. There’s no way to anticipate that they will be good news,” he said.
The ban is “not good, period,” said Sorenson, according to the Post.
To be sure, the New York Post reported that Sorenson said travel to the U.S. from the Middle East and North Africa has fallen 20 percent since Trump signed his travel ban.
This decline by travelers from those areas is especially painful and harmful to the U.S. economy because they spend much more than domestic guests, sources told the Post.
Bookings at Marriott, the world’s largest hotel operator, from those regions alone during the month of February fell up to 30 percent, Sorenson said at an investor day in March.
“We are clearly monitoring this carefully,” said Marriott spokeswoman Connie Kim. The Marriott properties most affected by the order are the swanky St. Regis and the Ritz-Carlton, where suites start at $800-plus a night, according to industry sources.
Travelers from the affected regions account for less than 1 percent of Marriott’s bookings, Kim said. But they are among the biggest spenders, say industry experts.
To be sure, Bloomberg View's Mark Whitehouse reports that "since Trump’s election in November, businesses that rely on tourism have become increasingly concerned that the president’s “America First” policies — including bans on travel from selected Muslim-majority countries and extra vetting of visa applicants — will make the country less attractive as a destination for all kinds of visitors. Some organizations and companies have even reported a decrease in bookings."
Whitehouse explained that the slide is hurting national economic statistics.
"The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that during the three months ended in February, spending by foreigners on travel in the U.S. amounted to almost $44 billion, down an annualized, inflation-adjusted 10.2 percent from the three months ended in October, before Trump won the election. The decline, although small compared with what happened after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was the largest drop during a comparable period since the global recession of 2008 and 2009."
Meanwhile, Mexicans, it seems, know how to take a hint. More and more tourists, feeling unwanted in the U.S., are opting to go elsewhere instead, Bloomberg reported.
Airports in Miami, Orlando, San Antonio and Denver clocked fewer travelers coming from Mexico City and Guadalajara in the first two months of 2017, while Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver saw a surge in traffic from Mexico’s capital.
"It’s not hard to see why Mexicans may be choosing to alter their travel plans, what with all those Twitter jabs by Trump, his plans for a wall between the two nations and uncertainty over travel restrictions. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on the other hand, announced plans last June to lift a visa requirement for Mexicans that allows them to enter the country with only a passport," Bloomberg reported.
“It’s the uncertainty more than anything,” Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, told Bloomberg. “A lot of people have canceled their trips to the U.S. because they don’t understand the new rules.”
A decline in tourism from Mexico could hurt American businesses that cater to travelers, including hotels and destinations like theme parks. Mexican visitors spent $19.7 billion in the U.S. in 2015, trailing only Chinese and Canadian travelers, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
(Newsmax wires services contributed to this report).