THE U.S. ON Monday announced it will lift COVID travel bans on all air passengers in November if they are fully vaccinated and undergo testing and contact tracing. Hotel and travel associations welcomed the decision to lift the bans, implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19 but which now pose a threat to the hospitality industry’s recovery.
The unprecedented restrictions had kept relatives, friends and business travelers around the world separated for many months as the pandemic grinds on. In July, President Joe Biden said discussions were under way on lifting the restrictions for vaccinated people, at least between the U.S. and Europe.
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at the White House press briefing that several working groups had discussed the restrictions to determine “the most equitable and clear policies” for resuming broader international travel.
“The older rules were not equitable, in our view, and they were a bit confusing. And so, this was an effort to pursue that,” Psaki said. “In early November, we’ll be putting in place strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from passengers flying internationally into the U.S. by requiring that adult foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. be fully vaccinated. Obviously, this is the conclusion of a policy process on that particular issue.”
AAHOA is working with Biden’s administration to promote vaccine awareness in the hospitality industry, it said in a statement.
“With the U.S. lifting coronavirus travel restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the hospitality industry,” said Ken Greene, AAHOA interim president and CEO. “As the borders are reopened for the first time in more than a year, this decision will help revive travel and the hotel industry.”
Travel industry studies estimate that international travel spending in the U.S. fell 76 percent year-over-year compared to 34 percent for domestic travel in 2020.
“Lifting the COVID-19 restrictions on foreign travelers is a significant step towards economic recovery,” said AAHOA Chair Vinay Patel. “The Biden administration’s new policy is the kind of evidence-based framework we’ve been advocating for.”
The easing of travel restrictions, imposed by then President Donald Trump 18 months ago, marks a significant shift by Biden and answers a major demand from European allies at a time of strained diplomatic relations.
U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said that the decision to lift travel restrictions for vaccinated international travelers will revive the U.S. economy.
“This is a major turning point in the management of the virus and will accelerate the recovery of the millions of travel-related jobs that have been lost due to international travel restrictions,” Dow said in a statement.
Some individual hoteliers also celebrated the decision on social media.