U.S. Travel Groups Push White House for Timeline to Restart Global Travel
By Lebawit Lily Girma for Skift | March 22, 2021
A July 4 full reopening to international visitors is what U.S. tourism and aviation groups pushed President Biden on today, plus no mandatory Covid entry test for vaccinated travelers. But reopening sooner than later could be risky amid Covid spikes in other countries.
The U.S. Travel Association, alongside 26 organizations from the tourism and aviation side, including the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the International Air Transport Association and the U.S. Tour Operators Association, urged the Biden administration on Monday to implement “a risk-based, data-driven roadmap” to lift all remaining international entry bans into the U.S.
What’s more, the groups want the White House to adopt a clear plan on travel restrictions going forward by May 1 so the summer travel season is not lost.
Part of what they are recommending is negotiating bilateral agreements to open up travel corridors between destinations. However, so-called travel bubbles have not proven to be successful.
Citing recent public health progress, including rapidly advancing U.S. vaccinations and drops in case numbers and hospitalizations, U.S. travel groups requested a full tourism reopening for inbound international visitors by July 4. This would allow visitors from Europe’s Schengen area, Brazil, UK, Ireland, China, Iran and South Africa to enter the U.S. either with Covid test results or vaccinated.
“A full travel recovery will depend on reopening international markets, and we must also contend with the challenge of reviving business travel,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said, adding that domestic tourism alone, while possible this year, will not suffice.
According to the U.S. Travel Association, international travel to the U.S. dropped by 81 percent in 2020, including 62 percent and 77 percent plunges from Mexico and Canada, respectively, amounting to a $146 billion loss for the U.S. economy, plus 1.1 million jobs that could be lost if travel isn’t fully reopened. By allowing inbound travel by July 4, 2021, the tourism group said to the White House, the U.S. would be looking at a $30 billion recovery, as well as 225,000 jobs restored.
Based on this data, the U.S.’s travel groups support exempting vaccinated travelers from testing requirements, doing away with quarantines for tested travelers — including an update to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines to reflect this change — and developing “uniform Federal principles for COVID-19 health credentials” to verify Covid test results and vaccinations.
In its most recent guideline change earlier this month, the CDC did not lift its recommendation that U.S. travelers should avoid international trips, in spite of the 31 million Americans who were vaccinated at that time. It’s unlikely the Biden administration would concede a change in its strict approach towards U.S. entry now.
As Covid variants spread in other parts of the world, even in countries that are also leading in vaccinations and are now heading back into lockdown, there’s a real risk that rushing lifting U.S. travel restrictions at this time could further delay a full recovery.