Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

US Loses Millions as a Result of Travel Ban | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page
Media ID: 55368595

Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Taleb Rifai speaks during an interview with Reuters in Athens, Greece, March 1, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Athens- The United States stands to lose millions in tourism revenues by travelers who will shun the country because of its ban on the nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries, the head of a United Nations tourism body said on Thursday.

Taleb Rifai, a Jordanian who is Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, also said the ban was partly the result of Americans not being well-traveled.

“I completely believe our friends across the Atlantic are developing this isolation attitude because they are not international travelers,” Rifai told Reuters in an interview in Athens.

“Sixty three percent of US citizens don’t even have a passport so why are we surprised…If you travel your eyes open, your mind opens, you become a better person,” he said.

Rifai said global tourism was not expected to be affected by the ban. Tourists to the US would simply pick another destination instead.

However, he said the US had lost 185 million dollars in one month since the ban was introduced, and stood to lose tens of millions each month if similar policies continued.

“Multiply that by 12 months – we are talking about a quarter of a billion (dollars) each month, which is tremendous.”

The losses were not necessarily from the countries directly affected. “You don’t want to go to places that you are not welcomed, why should you? Options are everywhere.”

Rifai, whose term ends this year, praised Greece for its reception of more than 1 million refugees at the peak of the migration crisis in 2015.

Greece he said “was correct in receiving them… by correct I mean abiding by international law. That’s why you were not penalized by tourists,” he said of the country, on its third international bailout since 2010.

Greek tourism revenues are seen rising by up to 9 percent in 2017. Arrivals have been rising for years, despite the hurdles.

“That tells you something,” Rifai said adding that the attitude of receiving refugees while struggling with the debt crisis was ‘admirable’.

“I’m here to pay respect to that,” he said.

Meanwhile, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell to near a 44-year low last week, pointing to further tightening of the labor market even as economic growth appears to have remained moderate in the first quarter.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 223,000 for the week ended Feb. 25, the lowest level since March 1973, the Labor Department said on Thursday.

It was the 104th straight week that claims remained below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market. That is the longest stretch since 1970, when the labor market was much smaller. It is now at or close to full employment, with an unemployment rate of 4.8 percent.