INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL TO the U.S. was all but eliminated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but now a coalition of 24 trade organizations have drawn up a blueprint for safely reopening the world, according to the U.S. Travel Association. USTA has called for travel restrictions to be eased by Thursday, but there is no indication that goal will be met.
The blueprint, titled “A Framework to Safely Lift Entry Restrictions and Restart International Travel,” spells out guidelines for the reopening. They include reserving entry restrictions for only the highest-risk countries; replacing all other blanket travel restrictions with a framework of entry protocols based on a country-by-country and individual traveler risk assessment; and making the framework easy to understand, communicate, and implement.
“The travel industry agrees that being guided by the science is absolutely the correct approach, and the science has been telling us for some time that it’s possible to begin to safely reopen international travel,” said Roger Dow, USTA president and CEO. “Our document continues to prioritize safety while providing a roadmap for solving for the billions of dollars in economic damage resulting from the continued restrictions on crossing our borders, in particular from allied countries with similar vaccination rates. We have the knowledge and the tools we need to restart international travel safely, and it is past time that we use them.”
For example, USTA wants the U.S. government to lift restrictions on travel between the U.S. and the United Kingdom quickly, citing data from the Mayo Clinic showing the risk of a person infected with COVID-19 boarding a flight from the U.K. to the U.S. is 1 out of 10,000. The same research found that the risk of an infected passenger transmitting the virus to another passenger flying from the U.K. to the U.S. is 1 out of 1 million passengers.
The USTA guidelines also call for expedited entry into the U.S for fully vaccinated individuals from non-high-risk countries.
The U.S. economy loses $1.5 billion in spending due to travel restrictions to Canada, the European Union and the U.K. alone, according to USTA. That money could support 10,000 American jobs. A report released in April by the World Travel & Tourism Council found that the travel industry had lost nearly $4.5 trillion since worldwide travel restrictions had been imposed in 2020.
Dow also stressed the need for continuing to press for more vaccinations.
“Restrictions on international travel are no longer what is protecting us from outbreaks of the virus,” Dow said. “In that vein, the travel industry continues to urge everyone who is eligible to receive a vaccine—they have been effective beyond expectation, and they are what is going to allow our lives to go fully back to normal and put this pandemic in the rearview mirror for good.”
Other signatories to the blueprint include: Airlines for America; Airports Council International – North America; the Aeronautical Repair Station Association; the Aerospace Industries Association; the American Association of Airport Executives; the American Gaming Association; the American Hotel and Lodging Association; the American Society of Travel Advisors; American Tours International, LLC; the Cargo Airline Association; the General Aviation Manufacturers Association; the Global Business Travel Association; the International Air Transport Association; the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions; the International Franchise Association; the International Inbound Travel Association; the National Air Carrier Association; the National Restaurant Association; RTCA; the Regional Air Cargo Carriers Association; the Regional Airline Association; The Travel Technology Association; and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce