One of the big rally cries of many in the industry has been just wait until business travel returns and then we’ll be fully recovered and that’s no doubt a huge factor, but there’s another missing piece: international travel.
With inbound travel coming to a virtual standstill when the pandemic hit, occupancies—particularly in major urban locations—fell off the charts. A relatively small percentage of international travel has returned in the two years that have followed, and that’s because we haven’t made it easy as a country. To put in perspective the precipitous drop, international travel is at roughly 22 percent of where it was in 2019.
According to a recent survey conducted for the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) of vaccinated international travelers in France, Germany, the U.K., South Korea, Japan and India, more than half (54%) of international travelers polled said the added uncertainty of potentially having to cancel a trip due to U.S. pre-departure testing requirements would have a negative impact on their likelihood to visit the U.S.
The simple fact is that we remain at a distinct disadvantage because of many of the COVID protocols that are in place. It’s for this reason that senior leaders from U.S. Travel Association and Airlines for America recently had a meeting at the White House where they reiterated the need for the Biden administration to end the pre-departure testing requirement for inbound vaccinated air travelers.
Roger Dow, president/CEO, U.S. Travel Association, stated in March at the Hunter Hotels Conference those requirements “are inhibiting travel like crazy.” He added the AH&LA and USTA had sent a letter to key policymakers urging them to get rid of the testing.
In regards to the most recent White House meeting, Dow further noted in a statement. “It is long past time for the Biden administration to remove the pre-departure testing requirement for vaccinated air travelers to the U.S. While nearly all other U.S. industries are operating without restrictions, the travel industry remains disproportionately harmed by this requirement, even though the science no longer supports.
“Other countries with whom we directly compete for global travelers have removed their pre-departure testing requirements and reopened their tourism economies, putting the U.S. at a serious competitive disadvantage for export dollars. Further, since the federal government does not require negative tests for entry at our land-border ports of entry with Canada and Mexico, it no longer makes sense to keep the requirement in place for vaccinated international air travelers to the U.S. While inflation continues to soar, the administration can take an immediate step in jolting America’s recovery efforts by repealing this outdated requirement.
“The time is now for the Biden administration to eliminate the pre-departure testing requirement for vaccinated travelers and fully reopen our borders,” he stated.