This week, 26 U.S. travel and aviation industry organizations signed a letter urging the Biden administration to commit to a plan to lift inbound international travel restrictions.
Citing improvement in coronavirus statistics and the tourism industry’s economic devastation, the letter called for a joint effort to develop a plan to help reopen by this summer so long as vaccine rollout and epidemiological trends keep improving.
“We strongly urge the COVID-19 response team and relevant Federal agencies to partner with airlines, airports, unions, hotels, theme parks and other key stakeholders to develop a data-driven, risk-based road map for reopening international travel,” the letter says.
Some of the major points of the road map include: allowing vaccinated travelers exemption from international testing requirements (instead of having vaccinations required for travel); creating clear benchmarks and a transparent framework to lift inbound international travel restrictions; and prioritizing international travel’s return ahead of the upcoming Group of Seven Meeting.
While the letter encourages measures to be taken to allow travel again, it does not encourage the government to lift existing public health efforts such as mask mandates, inbound coronavirus testing requirements and social distancing recommendations.
But it also recommends assessing the need for the inbound international testing mandate on a monthly basis after entry restrictions are lifted.
The letter says “the right public health measures are now in place” for the safe return of international visitors.
It also focuses on the financial toll of coronavirus mitigation travel restrictions, stating that the drop of international arrivals to the United States in 2020 cost the economy $146 billion. According to estimates from the U.S. Travel Association, the United States lost 5.6 million travel-supported jobs, and that 1.1 million jobs and $262 billion in export spending are at stake if international travel bans remain in place by the end of 2021.
“Travel and tourism is the industry hardest hit by the economic fallout of COVID, and the damage is so severe that a broader economic recovery will stall if we can’t get travel off the ground,” U.S. Travel Association president and chief executive Roger Dow said in a news release.
Dow says while domestic leisure travel appears to be rebounding, “a full travel recovery will depend on reopening international markets, and we must also contend with the challenge of reviving business travel.”
At this time, however, nonessential travel remains discouraged by coronavirus experts.
In a news briefing by the White House covid-19 response team and public health officials Monday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky said the CDC is working on updated guidance for what you can do if you’re vaccinated, which includes travel recommendations.
“We currently are at a situation — if we look at our European friends — we just don’t want to be at this rapid uptick of cases again, and that is very possible that that could happen,” Walensky said. “I would just encourage people and remind people: Now is not the time to travel.”
Read more on travel during the pandemic:
Tips: Advice column | Coronavirus testing | Vaccinations | Spring Break | Vaccine passports | Sanitizing your hotel | Updating documents | Summer trips |Travel vouchers | Ask us your travel questions
Flying: Pandemic packing | Airport risks | Staying healthy on planes | Fly or drive? | Layovers
Road trips: Tips | Rental cars | Best snacks | Long-haul trains | Rest stops | Cross-country drive
Destinations: Hawaii | Private islands | Australia | Mexico | Alaska | Puerto Rico