Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

10 Mar, 2017

Spineless U.S. travel industry kisses Trump’s rump

On March 06, 2017, right after the issuance of the revised Muslim travel ban, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow issued the following statement:

“The American travel community supports efforts to bolster national security, and the Trump administration deserves some credit for the substantially more cautious and deliberate introduction of the revised executive order.

“Cabinet officials were on the right track with public statements welcoming lawful visa holders into the U.S. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the administration fully seized the opportunity to differentiate between the potential security risks targeted by the order and the legitimate business and leisure visitors from abroad who support 15.1 million American jobs.

“Clearly this revised order is very encouraging news if you’re looking to come to the U.S. from Iraq. The question remains whether the revised order did enough to mollify the prospective traveler from Canada, Europe, or elsewhere around the world who may have been put off by the initial travel ban. If undecided voters need to hear certain things to be motivated to get out and vote, then the same is true for undecided travelers.

“Solid data on the January 27 executive order’s impact on inbound travel will become available in the coming weeks. We are confident that administration officials have adequately prioritized national security, but we hope they are open to adjusting their approach to address economic objectives as well. We also continue to urge that the security reviews prescribed by the executive orders be concluded as quickly as possible.”

Sixteen years after 9/11 and the “War on Terror”, the establishment of a multi-billion dollar Department of Homeland Security, the invasion of Iraq, the attack on Afghanistan, regime-change in Libya, attempted regime-change in Syria, sanctions on Iran, global crackdowns on terrorist financing, visa-restrictions, racial profiling and trillions of dollars spent on security equipment, the spineless U.S. travel industry cannot pluck up the courage to ask its own government: “What do you have to show for all that?”

Hundreds of thousands have died, the vast majority of them innocent civilians. For what? Who should be held accountable? When and where does it all end?

If all that has failed to produce any results so far, what good will a ban on citizens from Muslim-majority countries do? The U.S. travel industry continues to swallow the line that restricting people from these countries is intended to make the country safe. Between the first ban on January 25 and the revised ban on March 6, an Indian techie was murdered (Feb 24) by a white American supremacist terrorist who thought he was killing Iranians. A Sikh was shot and wounded (March 5) by another white American supremacist terrorist who didn’t know the difference between the turbans worn by Sikh and Islamic religious leaders.

Muslims didn’t kill anyone. White supremacists did. The attacks got the U.S. a raft of bad global publicity.

The spineless U.S. travel industry didn’t say a word.

In mid-February, just a few days before killings, the U.S. travel industry had made a marketing foray into India. Right after the killings, the parents of the techie were telling Indians not to study in the U.S. They blamed the anti-Muslim hysteria whipped up by the U.S. administration, directly accusing President Donald Trump of having blood on his hands.

So much for keeping America safe.

The spineless U.S. travel industry didn’t say a word.

The latest revised Muslim travel ban will worsen the situation, as has been the case with very action by successive U.S. governments since 9/11. The spineless, keep-kissing-the-rump reactions of the U.S. travel industry opens the door for the rest of the global travel industry to also say and do nothing in pursuit of accountability. Over time, the U.S. travel industry will learn that kissing the rump of the Trump administration is not sustainable policy.

Indeed, all these global forums on security and safety, including that held this week at the ITB Berlin, which claims the high-ground in “thought leadership,” are completely misjudging the real source of safety and security problems. There will be no end to safety and security problems until travel & tourism recognises the difference between symptom and cause, the cause and effect, that violence begets violence, and the blowback impact of U.S. foreign policy, including the regime change agenda and the drive to boost weapons exports. All these are part of the problem, not the solution.

Discussions on addressing safety and security problems are flawed at both ends. At the point of origin, the “solution” is a band-aid that calls for more security equipment, visa tightening, racial profiling and various other billion-dollar technological fixes. At the other end, the fix is “crisis management”. Both have been shunted aside by the new UN Secretary General Mr. António Guterres who is calling for global conflicts to be addressed via a culture of prevention and a surge in preventive diplomacy. He recognises that all forms of conflict and violence have root causes, and unless those causes are tackled at the root, the cycle will keep turning.

The spineless global travel and tourism industry has yet to attain that state of enlightenment.

Meanwhile, it continues to reel from the impact. Does the U.S. travel industry really think the U.S. is made more safe by banning refugees from countries who are fleeing conflicts the U.S. itself has fomented? Does it recognise the lies, hypocrisy and double standards that dominate the war on terror? In the 1930s, even the Jewish resistance movements used terrorism to drive the British colonial forces out of Palestine. Even Nelson Mandela was once called a terrorist by South African white supremacist apartheid regime for the monumental crime of demanding freedom for his people. The 9/11 terrorists came from Saudi Arabia. So why isn’t Saudi Arabia not on the list of banned countries?

Indeed, how can the U.S. end violence abroad when it cannot end violence at home? It has no shortage of its own right-wing shooters, all gun-toting racist supremacists who have grown up on a daily diet of TV violence. They constitute a limitless army of wanna-be Clint Eastwoods, Bruce Willises, Jean Claude van Dammes, Chuck Norrises, Steven Seagals, Sylvester Stallones, Arnold Schwarzeneggers, Spidermen, Supermen, Iron Men and Batmen, all considered “good-guy” superheroes saving the world from an assortment of “bad-guy” villains.

Why does the US Travel Association, and indeed all the global travel associations, do nothing, absolutely nothing, to raise these fundamental counter-arguments and challenge the root causes of conflict and violence? Could it be because the fingers of blame may shift towards those who are supposed to be the “good guys.” How terrible if the “good guys” turned out to be the “bad guys” after all?

The United States is an unelected, unaccountable, self-appointed global “leader”. Effectively it is a dictator. Under the Trump administration, the roller-coaster is heading downhill even faster. The Muslim travel ban is only one of a whole slew of policy reversals that are slowly destroying the U.S. image as a virtuous, trustworthy vanguard of freedom, democracy and human rights. Mr. Trump is dismantling trade agreements, backtracking on environmental pledges, gagging the once-mighty U.S. media and sabre-rattling at Iran and China.

How is that making his country any safer?

In 1974, when a President was exposed for lying to the American public, he resigned. Today, nearly 50 years later, when a presidential candidate is exposed for lying to the American public, the opposite happens — he becomes President. And because he fears no accountability or backlash, he just keeps on lying. As all leaders are supposed to lead by example, dozens of autocratic leaders worldwide now have the right to follow suit.

If the U.S. really wants to make the country safe from “radical Islamic terrorism,” it should first root out radical Jewish terrorism. Thousands of American Jews are also Israeli passport holders, and have served in the Israeli army. They are fanatic extremists cut from the same cloth as Yigal Amir, the terrorist assassin of the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, a Nobel peace prize laureate. They use their U.S. passports to freely live, work and travel throughout the Islamic world with the express objective of undermining it. Their job is to put Israel First, not America First. They are the real terrorists and threats to America. If the single American passport holders start challenging these dual passport holders about where their loyalties really lie, it will go a long way towards creating a culture of accountability that is entirely missing today.

The truth will set America free again.

Have your say: For the first time, this travel industry publication has put up a public poll on the question: Who poses the greatest geopolitical threat to the future of travel & tourism? It’s located on the top right column of this website. 

Journalism that other travel publications can only talk about.