Banning visitors from entering your country appears to be very bad for the tourism industry.
According to a new report from the travel search and research site Hopper.com, the number of flight searches on international routes bound for the U.S. has plummeted since President Donald Trump issued a controversial order temporarily banning refugees and immigrants from seven primarily Muslim countries from entering the country.
The site gathered flight-search data from 122 countries over the past five weeks, and found that weekly international U.S.-bound flight searches decreased 17% after the travel ban was announced. The number of flight searches dropped from 61.5 million per week during Obama’s final days in office, down to 56 million during Trump’s inauguration week, before falling to 50.9 million after the travel ban was ordered.
Hopper.com data revealed that searches dropped for U.S.-bound flights from 94 out of the 122 countries in the report. Curiously, the one place experiencing a sharp increase in demand for flight searches to the U.S. is Russia—which Trump has defended amid speculation of multiple business ties he has with the country. Weekly flight searches to the U.S. in Russia rose from around 387,000 while Obama was still president up to 730,000 after Trump’s travel order, an increase of nearly 90%.
The countries with the next-highest U.S.-bound flight search increases were Cuba (up 46%) and Belarus (up 30%). By contrast, predominantly Muslim countries, such as Sudan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia all saw U.S.-bound flight searches decrease by more than 30% since Trump’s executive order was announced. Countries with small Muslim populations appear to have been affected, too: Searches for flights to the U.S. from New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark, Nicaragua, and China have also fallen at least 30%. Because of China’s immense population, the dropoff is particularly huge, with 13.5 million weekly searches after the ban, compared to 20.2 million while Obama was still in office.
Hopper.com researchers say that there is normally a slight slowdown in global flight searches during the period covered in the study. Yet last year, the decline amounted to only a 1.8% falloff in flight searches when comparing the period around the new year with the end of January. In other words, the 17% decrease seen this year is “not a simple seasonal effect,” Hopper says.
“People will be understanding and forgiving when security is your motivation, but if they are left with other takeaways that leave the impression that they’re not welcome here, than that’s obviously a different story,” Jonathan Grella, the U.S. Travel Association’s executive vice president of public affairs, explained to The Hill recently.
The long-term consequences of Trump’s foreign policy on America’s visitation numbers and tourism industries are unknown. A federal judge has blocked Trump’s immigration order for the time being, but the matter is being battled in the courts this week.