Retailers Anxious over Travel Ban

Anxiety over a “Trump Slump” in tourism to the United States has become an issue, and California retailers have wondered if a travel ban initiated by the Trump Administration could affect them.

A leading voice for the American tourism business, Roger Dow of the U.S. Travel Association, made a statement against the president’s executive order, which limited travel from six majority-Muslim countries.

“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,” Dow, the association’s president and chief executive officer, said in a March 6 statement. The Attorney General from the state of Hawaii filed a suit on March 8 to stop the ban in part because it would hurt the island state’s tourism. Attorneys General for the states of Washington, Oregon and New York also started motions to upend the ban, according to media reports.

The ban was ordered months before late summer, when crowds of visitors from Persian Gulf countries traditionally visit Los Angeles and Orange counties. They have been known to spend large sums of money at high-end stores. Some retailers have characterized August as “Saudi month” for Saudi visitors’ business.

While Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and other Middle Eastern countries are not part of the travel ban, Ron Robinson, founder of the Ron Robinson boutiques in Santa Monica, Calif., and Los Angeles, feared that the ban might push visitors away.

“There is much reporting of so many people being detained, that it creates an uncomfortable environment. People will ask themselves, ‘Do I really want to go through that?’” Robinson said. “I don’t know if it will affect them,” he said of Middle Eastern tourists. “I don’t believe if it is a positive inspiration as they ponder a visit to our country.”

When asked for comment on a possible travel ban, South Coast Plaza’s Debra Gunn Downing said that 2017 would still be a good year for the luxe retail center, even if there are travel changes. Fraser Ross, owner of the Kitross boutique located near high-end hotels in Beverly Hills, Calif., said the tourist business is crucial for boutique retailers in an era when e-commerce business continues to skyrocket.

“Any tourist that comes to LA, we welcome them with open arms. They pump the economy more than everyone realizes that they do,” Ross said. “A lot of people would not have jobs if were not for tourists. I consider tourism bigger than Christmas.”