Research

Convene Survey: How Will Trump’s Travel Policies Affect International Attendance?

Most meeting professionals who responded to our latest survey are worried about the negative effect that new policies will have on the perception of travel to the U.S.

When Convene surveyed readers earlier this year about the actual and anticipated effects of the Trump administration’s travel policies on international attendance at their meetings and events, more than 60 percent of respondents said they were concerned that a proposed travel ban limiting travelers from mostly Muslim countries would create a negative perception about travel to the United States. And more than a third of respondents could link a decreased number of international registrants at their meetings to the proposed travel ban.

At the time, a March 6 executive order that suspended travel from six Muslim-majority countries had been blocked by federal courts and was scheduled for review by the Supreme Court. That travel ban was replaced last Sunday by a reworked executive order that sets permanent restrictions on travel by most nationals from an adjusted list of countries — Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, and North Korea. It is scheduled to take effect on Oct. 18.

Meanwhile, as the September issue of Convene — which contains the results of our survey — went to press in mid-August, reports on the number of international travelers to the United States had showed no decline, and had even registered a slight uptick in the spring. That changed earlier this month, as the U.S. Travel Association’s Travel Trends Index showed a decrease in international inbound travel in July and projected decreased international travel to the U.S. through January 2018. 

These changes could be expected to reinforce the trends our survey revealed. “The American travel community continues to feel that both security and economic objectives could benefit from a clear message that these policy moves are tailored to specific issues,” U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President for Public Affairs Jonathan Grella said in a statement in response to President Trump’s most recent executive order. “The world needs to know that they are not intended to discourage travel generally, and that legitimate business and leisure travelers are as welcome as ever in the United States.”

From the survey: 

1. What percentage of attendees at your largest event come from outside the U.S.?

2. Has/have your event/s already experienced a reduction in international registrants that you can confidently associate with the proposed travel ban?

3. Are you concerned that the Trump administration’s proposed travel ban limiting travelers from six mostly Muslim countries will have a negative effect on your attendance?

4. What is your biggest concern from the standpoint of events that attract international attendees?

5. Will you offer hybrid (i.e., live streaming or archiving sessions) or digital (online-only) events to a remote international audience as a result of reduction in travel to the U.S.?

This survey was conducted by Lewis&Clark, lewisclarkinc.com; sponsored by Destinations International’s empowerMINT.com; and edited by Michelle Russell. All material © 2017 by PCMA. This survey, conducted in June 2017, was completed by 100-plus respondents.

Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is senior editor and director of digital content.