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Trump ban, no problem ... yet - Local tourism players not overly concerned

Published:Monday | January 30, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Jamaica's tourism stakeholders say they are not overly concerned with the temporary ban on travel to the United States (US) by president of that country, Donald Trump.

The president's recent immigration order bans citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from travelling to the US for the next three months and suspends admission to all refugees for 120 days.

"We have not had any cancellations as a result of the order," president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Omar Robinson, told The Gleaner yesterday.

He said it was business as usual; in some cases, the numbers were as good as last year's. The US is Jamaica's number one source market, supplying the country with approximately 70 per cent of its market share.

The executive order made by Trump last weekend affects Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Iran, Iraq and the Sudan.

"At this time, we are hoping there will be no major fallout from it," said Robinson, who noted that at the JHTA Council meeting last week, the reports from his hoteliers were extremely encouraging.

"Indications are that it will be a cold winter, and people up north are looking to head south for their vacations. This is also bolstering our forward bookings," he stated.

Robinson, whose organisation represents not just hotels, but attraction operators, added that Jamaica does not get any significant numbers from any of the banned countries.

When asked about green-card holders who vacation here, and who may fear leaving the US in the event they can't re-enter, Robinson said this would be a wait-and-see situation.

In the meantime, Opposition spokesman on Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna, has called on the Government to clarify whether, and to what extent, the executive order could affect Jamaican students seeking employment in the US.

Each summer, a number of Jamaican students are employed under a special Work and Travel Programme, which helps many to pay their school fees.

Hanna, in a media release yesterday afternoon, said the language of Trump's order was particularly broad.

Pointing out the ambiguity, she explained that [Section 3. Suspension of Issuance of Visas and Other Immigration Benefits to Nationals of Countries of Particular Concern. (a) The secretary of homeland security, in consultation with the secretary of state and the director of national intelligence, shall immediately conduct a review to determine the information needed from any country to adjudicate any visa, admission, or other benefit under the INA (adjudications) in order to determine that the individual seeking the benefit is who the individual claims to be and is not a security or public-safety threat.]

"It could potentially affect Jamaican students. Should the executive order actually restrict access for our students to the US job market, how does the Jamaican Government intend to absorb the demand that will be created for employment? Many of these students start preparation as early as January each year, which, for many is very costly," said Hanna.

Scolding the Government, the opposition spokesman said it was surprising that the Jamaican Government had not sought to give this matter the urgency it deserved, as many of these young people were unaware of the possible impact this would have on their plans to travel and work overseas.