Donald Trump’s comments about Muslims have alienated some Americans he may not have expected would have an opinion on the matter: the travel industry.
At a campaign rally on Dec. 7, Trump called for “[A] total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on," a campaign press release said.
That rankled Jay Sorensen, president of IdeaWorksCompany, which conducts research and surveys on behalf of the travel industry. That research includes reports on the availability of award seats, the amount of revenue airlines earn from the sale of ancillary products and services, and how hotel rewards programs rank with their guests, among other topics.
On Dec. 8, Sorensen sent the following email:
Presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a “total ban” of Muslims entering the United States at a campaign rally yesterday. In prior comments he has suggested creating a database to monitor Muslim Americans and proposed warrantless searches of their homes. His statements have gone far beyond normal political discourse and represent overt bigotry and xenophobia. Donald Trump has placed hatred and fear in the forefront of his political campaign.
His views hurt the travel industry as a whole by urging a more divided world. His views also soil the soul of my immigrant country. To my friends around the world, please know this . . . Donald Trump is not America. I will not benefit this man by being a customer of his. I will not step foot inside a Trump Hotel or patronize any Trump enterprise to attend a conference, stay overnight, or dine in his restaurants. Mine is a small firm, but it’s a statement I am compelled to make as a travel industry professional and as an American.
I encourage you to do the same.
We are united – not divided – by travel.
While I do not intend to turn this blog on upmarket travel into a political forum, Sorensen’s closing comment resonated with me and reminded me of an experience I had in what might be considered similar circumstances.
The year was 1987. I was at the end of my first trip abroad, which I had taken to do a story on the British Airways Concorde and which I had only been able to make because the airline had provided me with a round-trip flight from Seattle (SEA) to London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR).
I was in my salad days, struggling to support a family of four on a reporter’s wages. I didn’t have a lot of cash and my credit card was perpetually maxed out.
At LHR for my flight home, I decided to use my remaining British pounds to buy a bite of breakfast. As it turned out, I was a bit short and asked the clerk if I could pay the difference in U.S. currency. She said no; it was either one currency or the other. I didn't have enough of either nor room on my credit card.
There was a gentleman in line behind me who looked to be Middle Eastern and somehow I got the impression that he was Iranian. Perhaps I caught a glimpse of his passport; the details have been lost in the fog of time. I am sure he pegged me as an American.
The U.S. and Iran had not been on good terms since the Shah was deposed in February 1979. When the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was taken over on Nov. 4 of that year, I began covering two families in Arizona who had relatives inside, so the ongoing conflict coupled with my personal connection to the discord between our two countries left me a bit wary.
Whatever angst I felt was defused when the gentleman grabbed a sandwich bag that held his British coins, emptied it on his tray, and said, “Take whatever you need.”
At that moment, I realized something that has been reconfirmed many times since, including during my trip to Poland earlier this year: while governments or other political bodies may be at odds with each other, individuals have a tendency to ignore their cultural or political differences and relate to each other as people.
As Sorensen put it, “We are united – not divided – by travel.”
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