BERLIN (Reuters) - The U.S. travel ban on citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries could affect demand for travel to the United States, the UN World Tourism Organization said on Tuesday.
Alongside widespread protests at airports, the executive order by President Donald Trump has led to criticism from airlines and the travel industry over the way it was implemented with no prior warning and the lack of clarity over the rules.
"Besides the directimpact, the image of a country which imposes travel bans in such a hostile way will surely be affected among visitors from all over the world and risk dumping travel demand to the United States," UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai said in a statement on Tuesday.
Seeking to capitalize on the restrictions, companies and officials in Asia said they would target greater tourism and education ties with Muslims worried about the curbs.
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The White House has said the move to put a 120-day hold on allowing refugees into the country, an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria and a 90-day bar on citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, is to protect U.S. citizens.
UNWTO's Rifai said it may worsen security risks.
"Global challenges demand global solutions and the security challenges that we face today should not prompt us to build new walls; on the contrary, isolationism and blind discriminatory actions will not lead to increased security but rather to growing tensions and threats," he said.
U.S. airlines' shares dropped on Monday over concerns on the impact of the immigration order, although analysts have said they did not expect a material impact for now.
The World Travel and Tourism Council, representing travel industry executives, also on Tuesday urged the Trump administration to rethink the ban, saying the travel and tourism sector was responsible for the livelihoods of millions worldwide.
"The U.S. has suffered in the past from similar isolationist policies. We urge the Trump Administration to reconsider this ban," WTTC President and CEO David Scowsill said in a statement.
The WTTC estimates the travel and tourism industry directly contributed 2.7 percent of the U.S. total gross domestic product in 2015.
(Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Tom Heneghan)