The temporary travel ban imposed by the Trump administration on seven Muslim-majority countries can impact the reputation of the US as a global travel destination and any impediment to legitimate inbound travel will take away jobs from Americans, according to Fred Dixon, the President and CEO of NYC & Company.
Noting that the temporary travel ban had implications for about 55,000 visitors to the US, including about 25,000 to New York, Dixon said in an interview: “It is not a large number of travelers that are specifically affected by the ban. It is more (about) symbolism. The ripple effect that it would have on all markets of the world that can potentially show that the United States is no longer welcoming. And that is a major concern.”
Overall, Dixon, who heads New York City’s official marketing, tourism and partnership organization, said that they were looking to welcome a record 61 million visitors to the city this year, including over 13 million international visitors.
He said 375,000 people were employed in travel and tourism-related jobs across all five boroughs of New York City in 2016; it was an increase of 15,000 over the previous year.
Dixon said tourism generates jobs, brings new money to the market and is a tax generator.
He said 500 international travelers help generate one job on an average and if the number of visitors goes down by that margin, a job is lost.
“So it is important to us as an economic engine for New York City that we maintain the growth in tourism and there isn’t a downturn. We want to protect those jobs,” he said.
Dixon, who was here in connection with the joint launch of the US-India Travel and Tourism Partnership Year, said that the image of the US was important in promoting various destinations, including New York.
He said NYC had spoken against the travel ban order that temporarily barred citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen — and refugees from entering the US.
With the travel ban having faced legal challenges, President Donald Trump has said he will issue a new executive order on immigration.
“Travelers around the world know that we were welcoming of them. In New York they are going to be warmly received… That is of paramount importance to us. So we have come out. We will continue to speak out against any impediments to legitimate travel to the United State,” Dixon said.
He said his organization waited for some days after the order and spoke out after it was clear that the travel ban was going to create “a perception problem” for the US and for New York.
Asked if such decisions have “reputation consequences”, Dixon said, “Yes. Absolutely.”
He said the US was built on immigration and any ban is a bad idea.
“The global exchange of ideas and values is the lifeblood of any modern city. And so for New York (City), as a global centre of commerce and trade and tourism, it is essential that we have a welcome mat to the world for legitimate travelers,” he said.
Dixon said they were making their feelings known and had spoken to elected officials to try to reach out to Trump. “And we know he reads newspapers and things. He is from New York. This is probably not lost on him,” he said.
Asked about concerns in India against the perceived protectionism of the Trump regime, Dixon said he looked at the issue in the same way as tourism, and sharing of global ideas and intellect is important to the growth of any economy.
“I can’t see that turning away a certain percentage of the population can be healthy. A lot of investments and improvements that we have made, the growth we have had in our economy are based on the work of immigrants, children of immigrants,” he said.
He said India was the 11th largest market for inbound travel to New York City (excluding Canada and Mexico) and had seen steady growth.
“It is one of longest-staying markets and has significant economic impact,” he said.