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US judges’ decision will prolong the agony

Dire results for the US MICE sector

Trump"s latest bull-in-a-china shop approach to 'fixing things' demonstrates perfectly the law of unintended consequences. Restricting access into the USA of all non-visa’d nationals from specific countries is a bit daft to say the least. All Scotsmen do not eat porridge. All Italian men do not send their washing home to Mama. All Muslims are not terrorists.

So well done to the three judges who have ruled that it is ‘unconstitutional’. The problem is that business hates uncertainty. It is likely Trump will take this all the way to the Supreme Court in time…but no-one really knows by when. So how can any non-US events planner include the USA now or in the near future as a potential conference or meetings destination?

The immediate consequence commercially will be the cancellation of globally-attended events in the USA, if delegate access for all bona fide, potential participants cannot be guaranteed.

I recall the bad old days in the 1980s when we regularly had to make special arrangements for anyone travelling out of the UK on South African, Irish or Pakistani passports to far-flung incentive destinations as they would not normally be allowed back in when they returned. Thankfully times have changed and blanket bans no longer apply in the civilised world.

The latest 'Trump-dump' will cause the following problems for international delegates. Professional and technical experts who have already paid their fees and costs to travel to the USA will be wondering if they will be allowed entry in the next three months. Knowing how Government agencies work the ban is likely to be extended longer than three months from some countries I would imagine. So I think there is no point in planning on the basis that it will all be okay after, say April. The overturning of the ban or the continuation of the ban or a modified ban could be indefinitely enforced.

Speakers from industry and academia are often recruited from 'difficult' countries to explain to those who live in more fortunate places what can be done to alleviate the problems of terrorism and its consequences. Clearly they will find it difficult to keep to their speaking commitments, if the policy or lack of policy continues.

Looking to the future the conference and association business spends much of its time researching and costing out new venues for upcoming events. In former times of terrorist activity in say Europe the USA enjoyed a spectacular boom in global events as it was a destination that was perceived as 'safe' by most would-be organisers. Safety is all very well. But not if you cannot service all the delegates you would like to attract.

So, in one executive order or possibly a follow up appeal the USA has removed itself from the shortlists of many future global events for the next few years. I wonder what the big US hotel chains and airlines think of this new marketing idea.

Turning to incentive travel, is any self-respecting CEO going to sign off a US travel destination for the next 12 months or so if he or she runs the risk of having top achieving executives being banned from entry into the USA?

Travel statistics tell us that over 50 per cent of incentive travel from the UK, for example, goes to US cities and resort areas. It may be similar for many West European countries. I am very doubtful that any responsible corporate will sign up to a US travel destination in the next few months if they have Muslim workers...which almost all do in Europe.

I wonder how many US companies with dual passport Muslim country passport-holder employees will now cancel overseas meetings and conferences destined for the USA in fear that their dual-citizenship employees may not be allowed back home in retaliation? You can reassure all you like about US passports being honoured. But on the ground sometimes the message to Border Control often gets misinterpreted or so convoluted that not allowing admittance is a clear and present danger.

Toronto airport reported 40 extra flights landing per day last week in the hope that those affected by the visa dispute would be able to enter the USA by road. Unfortunately no-one told Bubba who actually mans the border.

So, well done Trump. To mix my metaphors he has managed to both put his foot in his mouth and shoot himself in the foot at the same time. A remarkable achievement for the new leader of the free world.

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