Travel industry to White House: It’s time to end international travel restrictions

Mar 24, 2021

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Travel was one of the hardest-hit industries during the pandemic. One report found that international arrivals to the U.S. fell 62%.

But as COVID-19 vaccines roll out worldwide and travel begins to make a comeback, the industry has a request for the Biden administration: It’s time to end international travel restrictions.

More than two dozen travel trade groups and unions, including Airlines for America, the American Hotel and Lodging Association and the Association of Flight Attendants signed a letter sent to the White House.

The letter requests that the federal government work with members of the travel industry to develop a “risk-based, data-driven roadmap” to cancel inbound international travel restrictions by 1 May 2021. It cited Biden’s promise to have enough COVID-19 vaccines to vaccinate all Americans by the end of May. At this time, 13% of Americans have already been fully vaccinated, according to a Johns Hopkins University study.

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“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 roadmap for reopening international travel,” says the letter sent on 22 March to Jeffrey Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 Response Team coordinator.

“The roadmap to safely reopen international travel should be finalized before 1 May 2021, so that a plan is in place to reopen by the summer of 2021 if vaccine distribution and epidemiological trends continue in a positive direction,” it said.

The travel industry is calling for the end of mandatory quarantines after travelling in favour of keeping an international testing mandate.

Currently, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mandates say travellers must self-quarantine for seven days after travelling, even if they test negative. The industry also asked the Biden administration to exempt vaccinated travellers from international testing requirements but suggests that vaccines should not be required to travel.

The travel industry earlier this year successfully lobbied the Biden administration against requiring travellers to present negative COVID-19 tests for domestic flights.

The letter also asked that CDC guidance be updated to state that “vaccinated individuals can travel safely.” As of its update on 9 March 2021, the CDC still recommends that travellers “delay domestic and international travel,” stating that “travel increases your chance of spreading and getting COVID-19.”

The CDC has laid out several guidelines specifically directed toward people who have been fully vaccinated. To start, the CDC uses the term “fully vaccinated” to refer to someone who has waited two weeks after receiving their second dose of a two-dose vaccine series, or someone who has waited two weeks after receiving a one-dose vaccine.

Featured photo by Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

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