US hotel chain warns travel ban hitting tourism

US President Donald Trump's travel ban could have severe negative consequences for the American tourism industry (AFP Photo/JEWEL SAMAD) (AFP/File)

New York (AFP) - The US tourism industry faces the possibility of another "lost decade" of foreign visitors due to President Donald Trump's travel ban, a leading hotel executive said Monday.

Jonathan Tisch, chief executive of Loews Hotel & Co., warned that policies viewed as hostile to foreign visitors could damage the US industry, much as a visa crackdown and other policies after 9/11 led to the loss of billions of dollars in revenues from overseas travelers.

"When it comes to a business as competitive as travel, we need to remember that words matter. Perceptions matter," Tisch said at a hospitality conference hosted by New York University.

"In other words, it's important to balance security measures designed to keep out people who mean us harm...with words and actions assuring legitimate travelers that we welcome them and their business."

The remarks came as Trump doubled down on his controversial campaign to revive a ban on travelers from seven predominately Muslim countries, saying the measure was needed in the wake of the London attacks. The measure has been blocked in US courts.

Tisch's remarks have been echoed by other leading hoteliers in recent months.

Hilton chief executive Christopher Nassetta, in an interview with CNBC on Monday, called for a "balanced" approach to foreign tourism that recognizes that the vast majority of visitors to the US want to come for the right reasons.

Tisch said it was still too soon to have hard data on the exact impact of Trump's proposed ban, but one of Loews' hotels in Miami has had groups cancel because they had attendees from a travel ban country.

He also cited cases of Emirates airline cutting flights to some US cities and projections of steep cutbacks in foreign travel to New York City.

"This is mostly anecdotal evidence," he said. "We all hope the data on travel to the US remains positive. But no one can deny the tremendous uncertainty people feel about traveling to the US right now."

Tisch endorsed Trump's call for a $1 trillion infrastructure investment program, agreeing with the president's assessment that US airports lag those in other countries and should have runways, gates and terminals upgraded.