By Michael Hill
Bookings and searches for international flights to the U.S. both declined after the first Trump administration travel ban, according to travel analysts. On Monday, the governor challenged the notion of blaming the travel ban.
“Laying the blame for a 7 percent ticket drop in one month at Newark Airport at the feet of the president of the United States I think is a huge assumption to make and one that is not founded in fact,” Gov. Chris Christie said.
Rummy Pandit, the executive director of Stockton University’s Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism, said “We’re not really going to know what the impact is until some time in the future. … Three days prior to the presidential inauguration all the way up until March 6 I believe, they’re talking a 10 percent decrease in flight searches. So, those are the kinds of indicators that are showing that there could be a decrease in demand in the future.”
James Calderon of Real Travel Network in Elizabeth says late spring international bookings are unusually down.
“We definitely see a slowing of bookings. We see prices coming down. Not normally for the summer. Good prices that are about 75 percent of what they usually should cost,” he said.
What does he think is driving that? “People’s fears. They don’t want to travel. They don’t want to deal with the hassle. There’s also a lot of anti-American sentiment that people are worried about so they figure they may as well travel within the United States,” he said.
Today, immigration advocates and government lawyers argued in court again over the legality of the second Trump travel ban of folks from majority Muslim nations of Iran, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan and Libya.
Even though the Trump administration travel bans don’t target some American citizens, some American citizens are uneasy about it.
“I was worried coming in but credit, I had no problems at all,” said one man. Why was he worried? “Because I have friends who may be citizens who’ve had their phones, kind of asked ‘can we see, can we go in to your Gmail,'” he said.
Mohandas Narla is just returning from Paris. He’s a vice president at the New York Blood Center. He’s Hindu and dislikes the travel bans and fears what else it could lead to.
“I’m a professional and I do very well in this country, although India is my origin, I’m all of a sudden very concerned that the future could be discrimination against India, Hindus and not only Muslims,” Narla said.
The irony of the travel statistics and the bans is that visits to the symbol of America’s early welcoming immigration policy have gone up by double digits from late January to the end of February compared to last year. And again, no one can say exactly why.