The only thing stopping travelers to the U.S. now is the high airfare prices. As of Sunday morning, the Biden administration has lifted the requirement that made travelers—U.S. citizens and international visitors—coming back or into the the country take a COVID-19 test within a day before departure, an oftentimes vexing measure that has hindered a full travel comeback.
The mandate expired Sunday at 12:01 a.m. EDT after Biden administration official adding that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that inbound testing is no longer necessary.
Though the testing requirement, which was instituted last year, appears to be going away, it could be reinstated should there be any large surge of cases or if a new variant emerges, the official told the AP. The testing requirement would be reviewed and evaluated by the CDC every 90 days.
The initial mandate allowed those who were fully vaccinated to show proof of a negative test within three days of travel, while unvaccinated people had to present a test taken within one day of travel. But in November, as the omicron variant swept the globe, the Biden administration moved to toughened the requirement and required all travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to test within a day of travel to the U.S.
At the NYU Hospitality Investment Conference in New York this week, hotel CEOs railed against the testing requirement. Many referred to it as maddening, especially in light of the recent National Travel and Tourism Strategy announcement by Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo that focuses federal government efforts to support the U.S. travel and tourism industry and sets a five-year goal of attracting 90 million international visitors to the U.S. each year.
The COVID testing requirements are "ridiculous," said Keith Barr, CEO of IHG Hotels & Resorts. "It’s crazy," added Tony Capuano, CEO of Marriott International.
On a policy update, Andy Ingraham, CEO of NABHOOD, called the testing requirement a "burden" and said restricting people from coming to the U.S. would be pernicious. "Guess what's going to happen? They're going to find other places that go," he said.
Numbers Don't Lie
In 2019, the U.S. welcomed 79 million international visitors who spent close to $240 billion, making international travel the largest service export, according to U.S. Travel. As of February 2022, international travel was 55 percent below 2019 levels and declines in international visitation since the start of the pandemic has resulted in the loss of $315 billion in travel exports and a loss of more than 1 million American jobs.
"While we've seen the return of some of these important visitors who, of course, stay longer and spend more, we are far from the prepandemic numbers," said Jeffrey Stewart, founder and president of Walnut Hill Advisors.
The lifting of the requirement could be a boon for the hotel industry. As Elie Maalouf, CEO of the Americas for IHG Hotels & Resorts, pointed out, only 50 percent of international travel had returned. As of May, U.S. international air travel remained 24 percent below 2019 levels. "There are tailwinds," he said.
Undoubtedly, the testing requirement persuaded many would-be vacationers from booking a trip to the U.S. and also stymied corporate and group travel from abroad. Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Association, told the AP that lifting the testing rule was “another huge step forward for the recovery of inbound air travel and the return of international travel to the United States.”“I’m glad the CDC suspended the burdensome coronavirus testing requirement for international travelers, and I’ll continue to do all I can to support the strong recovery of our hospitality industry," Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., said in a statement.
Copyright 2022 Questex LLC. All rights reserved. https://www.hotelmanagement.net. By David Eisen.