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International travel remains strong, despite concerns


Travel around the world continues to grow, even amid concerns that fewer passengers would take to the skies in the face of travel bans and a laptop ban for travelers from some cities, according to two new reports this week.

The International Air Transport Association, a global airline group, said Thursday that global passenger traffic was up 7.7 percent in May compared with the same month a year ago. That’s slower than the growth in April, yet still ahead of average growth rates over the past five years and ten years, according to IATA.

But industry officials remain cautious about the outlook going forward as the United States puts into place heightened security measures and a revised travel ban takes effect.

Traffic on North American airlines was up 4.8 percent in May, according to IATA.

“While growth has slowed of late, the comparatively healthy regional economic backdrop, coupled with the strength of the U.S. dollar, should support outbound passenger demand,” though the strong dollar could drive down travel into the United States, according to IATA’s report. “Anecdotal evidence also suggests that tourists may be deterred by the additional security measures put in place by the US government.”

The increased security, including enhanced passenger vetting and explosives detection, is an alternative to a ban on laptops on international flights.

A laptop and electronics ban had been in place since March for nonstop flights to the United States from Amman, Jordan; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Cairo; Istanbul; Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar Airways on Thursday confirmed that the laptop ban in effect on its flights from Doha to the United States has been lifted. Qatar joins other carriers including Emirates and Turkish Airlines in meeting new U.S. security guidelines to get the ban on large electronic devices on its flights lifted.

Qatar Airways last year launched nonstop flights between Atlanta and Doha.

But Qatar is still affected by a standoff with other Arab states, which led Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain to cut ties with Qatar and block direct flights from Qatar.

Looking at international travel to the United States, the U.S. Travel Association said Wednesday that traffic “continues to defy the expectations of many,” growing 5.2 percent year-over-year for the month of May.

“There is widespread talk of daunting challenges to the U.S. travel market -- perception of the country abroad is mentioned most, but the strong dollar and slowing global economy are factors as well -- yet the resilience of our sector continues to astound,” said U.S. Travel Association president Roger Dow in a written statement.

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