Asian travel to the US appears uninterrupted — for now

Aarthi Swaminathan | Special to CNBC
Protesters march from central to the U.S. Consulate General to protest U.S. President Donald Trump's immigration ban on February 5, 2017 in Hong Kong.
Lam Yik Fei | Getty Images

President Donald Trump's controversial travel ban could affect the U.S. tourism sector, and related industries, in coming months as visitors reassess their holiday plans and business trips stateside, according to various reports.

In Asia, however, there are few signs of Trump's actions impacting visitations.

Following the release of Trump's updated, second attempt at the travel ban, AirAsiaExpedia CEO Jonty Neal told CNBC that "with this new order, and in particular its impact on travel to the U.S. from Asia, it's really too soon to tell."

"Thus far, we haven't observed anything meaningful on a trend basis, which is good news," he said. "We'll continue to watch this closely in coming weeks and months."

On Jan. 27, Trump signed the first executive order for a travel ban — related to travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries — which led to confusion across U.S. and overseas airports and resulted in nationwide protests against the order. In response to the ban, would-be travelers from countries not on the updated ban list say they are reconsidering their trips.

A survey by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) found that 45 percent of its European members were less likely to plan travel to the U.S. after the restrictions were announced. The same survey also noted that 17 percent of the group's European corporate travel managers had cancelled business travel plans for the same reason.

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Michael McCormick, executive director and chief operating officer, at GBTA reckoned there was a perception that the U.S. was no longer a welcoming destination for business travel.

International bookings to the U.S. since the first travel ban was announced had dropped by 6.5 percent, according to travel monitoring platform ForwardKeys.

After the first travel ban was blocked in court, President Trump signed a new executive order last week temporarily blocking travel to the U.S. from countries he said pose a high terrorism risk. The new order bars travel to the U.S. for 90 days from six predominantly Muslim countries — Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The new list excludes Iraq, which was included on the original list of countries announced in January.

In Asia, data showed travelers had a more nuanced response to their plans to visit the U.S. in light of the first travel ban — even as leaders in the region expressed concerns over the order.

According to numbers compiled by travel fare aggregation website Kayak, fewer travelers in Australia, China, Indonesia and Singapore were searching for U.S.-bound flights between Feb. 1 and Mar. 13.

In Australia, the year-on-year search volume for round-trip flights for U.S. destinations in that period fell 18 percent; China saw a decline of 27 percent, Indonesia — a Muslim-majority country — saw a drop of 19 percent and Singapore volume fell 14 percent.

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By contrast, search volumes originating from India rose 23 percent and Hong Kong saw a 34 percent increase.

To be sure, the data does not indicate if users went on to purchase any U.S.-bound tickets following their search and the period is not peak travel season.

U.S. incidents involving South Asians could impact travel from that region based on several reports: Shootings in Seattle and Kansas of two Indian men have prompted some Indians to reconsider their plans to work, study or live in the U.S.

Chinese tourists may also be cautious about traveling to the U.S. as Trump has frequently taken a negative tone on the Chinese government, and some have expressed concerns that the sentiment could trickle down to individuals.

Decline in Chinese visitors to the U.S. would hurt more than others, as Chinese tourists have a huge propensity to spend. U.S. tourism figures from 2016 show that China and India were among the top 10 countries for international travel.

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