Middle East travellers to the US down 20%, says Marriott CEO

The world’s biggest hotel operator denounces travel ban as ‘not good’ during Dubai visit
Middle East travellers to the US down 20%, says Marriott CEO
Travel to the US from the Middle East has plummeted at least 20 percent, according to early data seen by the world’s largest hotel operator.
By Courtney Trenwith
Tue 11 Apr 2017 10:41 AM

Travel to the US from the Middle East has plummeted at least 20 percent,
according to early data seen by the world’s largest hotel operator.

In
Dubai, Marriott International president and CEO Arne Sorenson said President
Donald Trump’s travel bans targeting Muslim nations were “not good” and had
dampened what is otherwise an increase in demand globally.

“The
travel bans are not good, period,” Sorenson said at the St Regis hotel in Al
Habtoor City, Dubai.

“We do
believe that travel to the United States out of the Middle East is down in
excess of 20 percent and we think travel to the US from Mexico is down between
10-20 percent. And that’s not surprising; those are the markets where the
political noise in the US is the most audible.”

The US
banned from March 21 the use of electronic devices such as tablets and laptops
on board any flight travelling from countries including the UAE and Qatar.
Citizens of six Muslim nations in the Middle East and Africa also are banned
from entry into the country.

Sorenson
said it was too early to make a precise assessment of the impact but he
expected it to hit leisure travellers. Most affected airlines, including
Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways, are lending laptops to Business and First
class passengers – typically the classes in which businesspeople travel –to
help mitigate the disruption.

“Our
anticipation is that the travel bans are likely to have a more profound impact
on discretionary travel than on business travel. Discretionary leisure travel
tends to be more seasonal, it also tends to have a longer booking window, and
so we’re going to need to have a few months before we really can assess how
profound the impact is,” Sorenson said.

Marriott,
which now operates more than 1.1 million rooms in 110 countries following its
$13.6bn takeover of Starwood Hotels & Resorts in September, is still seeing
an increase in its US visitor numbers despite the political concerns – but they
could be even better, Sorenson said.

“The
early suggestions are that arrivals to the US from all markets around the world
might be up in the first couple of months,” he said.

“It
doesn’t look like the total picture at the moment is as bad as you might think,
based on the noise that’s out there.

“Logically
… [total visitor numbers] would be even better without the travel bans.”

Sorenson
said improving economic growth and optimism also could be driving the global
increase in travel to the US.

Middle
Eastern travellers avoiding the US are thought to be travelling to London
instead, based on preliminary data, Sorenson said.

The US
ban on laptops is currently expected to last until October 14.

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