People, Travel

Asia to Benefit From Trump Travel Ban

Asia to Benefit From  Trump Travel BanAsia to Benefit From  Trump Travel Ban

Seeking to capitalize on US President Donald Trump's controversial new travel restrictions, companies and officials in Asia said they would target greater tourism and education ties with Muslims worried about the curbs.

Trump's Friday directive placed a 90-day bar on citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and a 120-day hold on allowing refugees into the country, with an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria.

In Muslim-majority Malaysia, the group CEO of Asia's largest budget airline, AirAsia, suggested countries in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations could cash in, Reuters reported.

"With the world now getting more isolationist, it's time for ASEAN to start making it easier for tourists to come," Tony Fernandes said in a tweet on Tuesday.    

Malaysia is a popular destination for tourists from the Middle East, with nearly 200,000 arriving in 2016 from countries, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Qatar.

The country is also a key destination for medical tourism, with food and other products largely halal-certified.

In neighboring Thailand, tourism officials said the US ban could lift visitor numbers.

"The Middle East is a big market for us, especially in the medical tourism sector. They may choose to visit Thailand more and this may also boost our sector," Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn told Reuters.

Trump has presented his ban as a way to protect the United States from terrorists, but it has been condemned by a growing list of foreign leaders and drawn protests by tens of thousands in American cities.

With concerns about safety and security building, some Asians were reconsidering US travel plans and seeking alternatives, even though their countries were not subject to the restrictions.

"When you want to travel, especially for leisure, then you want peace of mind," said Alicia Seah, director of public relations and communications at Singapore's Dynasty Travel.

"Right now people are planning for their March-April onwards travel. They will put their travel plans (to the United States) on hold at this juncture in time."

Seah said Singaporeans may either choose to travel to the United States later in the year or explore alternative locations such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada or within Asia.

Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints