"A major step forward": The travel industry welcomes the latest decision of the White House to lift travel restrictions for fully vaccinated visitors from abroad.
The United States will lift travel restrictions on fully vaccinated people from countries such as Germany starting in early November. The statement of the White House was met with joy and relief at tour operators and corporate travellers after the borders have been closed since March 2020.
The United States currently bars entry for most non-citizens from 33 countries, including European Union members, Britain, India, China, Brazil, South Africa and Iran. Former president Donald Trump had ordered an entry ban on foreigners for several nations in March 2020, as the pandemic began locking down countries across the globe.
The restrictions were then kept in place by President Joe Biden, citing the spread of the more contagious Delta variant. So far only US citizens and permanent residents, along with their family members, can enter the US if they have been in the 33 countries in the past 14 days. All others need special permission – a NIE (national interest exception) visa.
Many Europeans have been frustrated by the exclusion, especially after the EU's executive body recommended in June that member states lift restrictions on entry by US citizens. European Commissioner Thierry Breton called Monday's announcement by the White House "a logical decision given the success of our EU vaccination campaign."
Announcement on the opening day of IPW
Although it took the Biden administration a long time to come to this decision, the timing was perfect: IPW, the first international, large-scale travel meeting to convene live in the United States since the start of the pandemic, took place as the Biden administration announced it would reopen the country to international air travel.
"The November reopening of international air travel to vaccinated travellers is a critical turning point in our industry's recovery – and the announcement couldn't have come at a more perfect time, on the opening day of IPW," said US Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. "IPW is not only reuniting the world, it's a stage for rebuilding relationships and conducting business that will lead to the full return of inbound travel."
"The removal of travel restrictions to the USA is not only a major step out of the crisis for our airlines but also terrific news for the transatlantic partnership," said Carsten Spohr, CEO of Lufthansa: Shortly after the US administration announcement, the airline reported a 40% booking increase over the previous week "because the Lufthansa Group Airlines are optimally prepared for the reopening".
IATA sees "a major step forward"
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomed the decision by the Biden Administration as "a major step forward". Willie Walsh, IATA's Director General, sees three positive effects: "This is excellent news for families and loved ones who have suffered through the heartache and loneliness of separation. It's good for the millions of livelihoods in the US that depend on global tourism. And it will boost the economic recovery by enabling some key business travel markets."
"The next challenge is finding a system to manage the risks for travellers who do not have access to vaccinations," said Walsh. "Data points to testing as a solution. But it is also critical that governments accelerate the global rollout of vaccines and agree a global framework for travel where testing resources are focused on unvaccinated travelers. We must get back to a situation where the freedom to travel is available to all."
"Critical to New York City's tourism recovery"
"We look forward to the administration's plan and seeing it take full effect this Fall," said Fred Dixon, President and CEO of NYC & Company, New York City's official marketing body. "Opening international travel is critical to New York City's continued tourism recovery."
Dixon underlined his statement with impressing figures: While international travel comprises 20% volume in the Big Apple in a typical year, it generates 50% of tourism spending and 50% of hotel room nights. "International visitors stay longer and spend more. As the number one port of entry for the US and the city with the highest share of overseas travel, the decision to open international borders safely is the news we have been waiting for and a shot in the arm for our industry."
Full vaccination plus negative test result
In announcing the lifting of the travel ban, White House Covid-19 coordinator Jeffrey Zients also said US-bound travellers will also face new testing protocols. In addition to demonstrating proof of being fully vaccinated, foreign nationals must also show a negative test result within three days of the flight. There will be no quarantine requirements upon arrival.