PHOTO: Travel agents are working overtime to calm clients' travel ban-related fears. (Photo courtesy of Thinkstock)
First, there was the original travel ban and the backlash that followed, and now Travel Ban 2.0 is due to arrive next week. Travelers are concerned, and some are even backing off on trips until all of the dust is settled—if that’s even soon.
In the meantime, travel agents are doing whatever they can do to calm their clients’ concerns.
Alyssa Schulke tries to keep up-to-date on how her clients are affected by the travel ban rules and regulations. “I need to ask more detailed questions about their green card/visa status if they aren’t naturalized citizens and be sure to advise them of the possible ramifications should the rules change again,” said Schulke, an affiliate of Travel Experts. “I also need to keep on top of the countries that are now restricting access to US citizens as a response to the ban. I have clients who are interested in Middle Eastern travel or humanitarian work who may now need to reevaluate their plans.”
Schulke said that her travelers’ biggest concerns are that the rules are going to change while they are traveling. “And they are going to be stuck somewhere and unable to re-enter the country,” she said. “The fact that the details of what might happen next related to travel documentation requirements are unknown is putting travelers on edge—as well as reports that the TSA is not enforcing the rules consistently or may be unaware of the rules. People are nervous that even with proper documentation they may still be delayed or barred.”
Margie Lenau started talking to her clients about the changes in traveling before Donald Trump even became president. “I think that my travelers were already concerned about safety,” said Lenau, XX. “I tell them to be sure that they have their papers in order, and that their passports have more than six months before they expire if they are traveling internationally.”
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Lenau tells those with Green Cards to check with the State Department or their local government to be sure there will not be an issue. “I meet with our legislators here twice a year at our local Chamber meeting,” she said. “I want to ask questions and hear what issues are on the table so I can help my clients avoid any travel dilemmas. Travelers are talking about their concerns much more now than last year at this time, and safety is always my number one concern.”
Also, Schulke said that insurance does not cover reimbursements for costs that a traveler might incur due to issues with documentation. “So clients are worried about whether they should even travel if they are green card holders since they have no recourse financially and no control over the situation,” she said.
“For example, I have clients—three citizens and one green card holder—who are going to Mexico to visit family and are now trying to decide whether they should risk going, even with proper documentation,” she said.
“I also have a client who is a naturalized citizen but originally from Iran who canceled a trip to Italy because he wasn’t confident he’d be let back in the US—even after living here since the 1980s. Any plans he might have had to visit his family in Iran are now curtailed as well.”
Greg Geronemus, the co-CEO of smarTours tells travelers that he is confident that he will be able to send travelers to such countries as Iran in 2017. “The strong push back from the judicial system in the U.S. gives us confidence that the Executive Order will not hold up, and our conversations with our partners in Iran clearly suggest that Iran will reverse its reciprocal ban once matters are settled in the U.S.,” he said.
Schulke advises her travelers to contact the US consulate/embassy where they are traveling as well as the nation’s embassy to make sure they know current requirements for US travelers as well as register your trip.
“Make copies of the requirements with date stamps and have backup copies of your documentation to have with you while traveling,” she said. “If you are traveling and are concerned about possible delays, make sure you have flexibility in your plans. As much as I hate to say it, if a traveler is nervous about losing time or money due to possible issues, it might make sense to delay until things settle down a bit if at all possible. Because right now, no one can say for sure what will happen.”