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“Meltdown” in Travel to Middle East, Says New Report

The Trump administration’s January 27 Executive Order that aimed to restrict travel from seven majority Muslim countries and halt the nation’s refugee program resulted in a number of unintended consequences, including traveler confusion, negative global reactions, legal action against the ban, and a loss of $185 million in business travel bookings in the week following the EO.

According to a new report by the travel data company ForwardKeys, not only did travel from the Middle East drop drastically as a result of the ban, it has also affected travel in the opposite direction. U.S. bookings for travel to the Middle East “collapsed” in the weeks following January 27 and appears to be stalled for the next three months.

ForwardKeys, which monitors travel patterns by analyzing 16 million daily flight reservations, found the following correlations with the travel ban. (Note that its analysis includes Iraq, Yemen, and Syria among Middle East countries, while Iran is included with Pakistan, India, and other countries in the South Asia region.)
• In the three weeks before the ban, U.S. bookings to the Middle East were up by 12 percent year-over-year. However, in the four weeks following the ban they dropped 27 percent below the previous year’s level (a total 39 percent change).
• Travel to South Asia saw a similar pattern: After having been up in January, demand was down 24 percent year over year by February 18.

Looking ahead, departures from the U.S. over the next three months appear to be taking a hit. The factors that are continuing the downturn in travel from the U.S. are “debatable,” but, according to a ForwardKeys release, the downturn “is very difficult to explain without reference to the travel ban.” The year-over-year departures from the U.S. over the next three months before and after the travel ban look like this:

International departures from the U.S.
Before the ban: +20 percent YoY
After the ban: +11 percent YoY
(total change -9 percent)

Departures to the Middle East
Before the ban: +23 percent YoY
After the ban: -2.4 percent YoY
(total change -25.4 percent)

Departures to South Asia
Before the ban: +8.8 percent YoY
After the ban: -6.6 percent YoY
(total change -9 percent)

To see the full report, visit the ForwardKeys website.

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