The travel industry is now asking questions about resuming inbound international travel. Borders have been closed since March 2020 when the WHO (World Health Organization) declared Covid-19 a global pandemic. Since that time, incoming non-citizens and non-residents have been restricted at the US borders. The Biden administration has extended these entry restrictions for many countries including Brazil and most of Europe in hopes of controlling the virus and preventing further global spread.
However, such restrictions have had severe financial effects. Overseas travel to the US declined by 81% in 2020, and travel from Mexico reduced by 62%. Incoming tourism from Canada declined by 77%. This loss of inbound tourism has cost the U.S. economy approximately $146 billion. The US Travel Association believes that a total of a 1.1 million American jobs will be lost and $262 billion in potential tourism revenue will not be recognized in 2021 if international restrictions are not eased. The hope is to restore some incoming tourism by early July, which would allow for a restoration of 40% of 2019 revenue levels for the remainder this year. This would be result in a significant economic recovery for the U.S., and up to 225,000 jobs could be saved.
There is a call from the aviation and travel industries for the government to work with them toward creating a roadmap to relaxing some international restrictions and allowing some foreign tourists to enter the country. These industry representatives are suggesting a risk-based and data-driven strategy to reopen the country to international tourists and stress an urgency in doing so.
This group does not support the removal of public health protections that are currently in place and working – including mask mandates, testing, and physical distancing, stating that these measures are effective in continuing to mitigate risk. Their proposed roadmap would include measures such as a blanket testing requirement for all inbound passengers, and an exemption from testing for vaccinated passengers. They encourage the government to establish federally accepted methods to validate the test results and vaccination records of travelers.
The timeline for easing incoming travel restrictions should begin as soon as May so that the U.S. can open to non-US tourists before the summer travel season begins. There will be severe financial and employment implications if another summer season passes with no incoming tourism.
It has been more than a year since people have been able to travel freely, and many avid travelers feel as though the quality of their lives has changed with the loss of that freedom. Travel restrictions have affected both business and pleasure travelers, and these limits have caused people to miss important social and business interactions. This has brought stress and frustration to many.
It is very important that both individuals and countries manage risk and do what is necessary to stay safe from Covid-19. Such safety is a global necessity. As cases of the virus decline worldwide, we must begin planning ways to re-open borders and resume travel. Travel restrictions have had both social and economic costs across the world. Many people are ready to get on with their lives and feel that their freedom to travel is a large part of that.
A plan to resume travel is critical. This plan must manage the risks of living in a world with Covid-19. Airlines and countries need to begin making and implementing their own strategies for recovery. These plans should have milestones that enable countries to reopen their borders safely while at the same time, manage the risks of Covid-19. Some of those management tools should include testing capabilities and vaccine distribution, and ways to verify this information while protecting passenger privacy. There are several ideas for Global Passports and Health Travel Apps which will allow airlines to check passengers’ Covid status. However, some of the risk management must be on the travelers themselves – by getting vaccinated and traveling safely, adhering to the regulations set forth by the airlines they choose to fly, and the countries they plan to visit.
Most people in the travel industry feel that Covid-19 will not disappear completely, so we need to find ways to lessen travel restrictions while safely managing the risks of the virus. This will allow global economies to recover and improve the lives of individuals with more freedom to travel.
In my opinion, and in that of many other travel professionals, the U.S. should take the lead in establishing Covid-19 health credential standards. Global travel would be able to resume much more quickly if there were a clearinghouse of information that contains the test results and vaccine status of airline passengers. Having verified proof of this passenger information could also benefit sports arenas, theme parks, event spaces, as well as the individuals who want to visit them.
The U.S. already has a Covid-19 recovery team, and one of their priorities should be to quickly establish some sort of a travel passport containing an individual’s Covid-19 status information, including test results and vaccination status. The U.S. government should work closely with the travel industry to establish standards for this process, ensuring that reported test results and vaccines are legitimate and prioritize passenger privacy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be in a good position to lead a global discussion, strengthening protections against the import or export of the virus. This month, the European Commission will unveil a proposal for a “Digital Green Pass” that will provide proof that a person has been vaccinated, recovered from Covid-19, or has received a negative test. It would be more efficient if there were only one globally accepted document and process.
As vaccination rates increase, the rate of Covid-19 infection reduces. This is expected to trigger a surge in travel bookings as so many consumers spent a year staying at home to avoid contracting coronavirus. A globally accepted document, such as a Covid-19 Health Certificate or Covid-19 Global Passport will be essential to the reopening of countries that have imposed quarantines or other restrictions on travelers from other countries.
I can’t! Even in my wildest dreams I could never have imagined that the whole world would stand still due to a pandemic, with so many deaths and so many people who have lost their jobs and businesses. Travel became an almost impossible dream, especially when so many countries closed their borders. Cruises stopped still.
We all know how much we have lost, how much we hurt, and how much we crave normalcy.
Let me talk about the positives of what I have learned, and hopefully you have some too.
I have always been a very anxious person. I started my day thinking about how I would finish it. I didn’t enjoy thinking about each part of the day. I lived for travel so what happened in between each trip was just to fill space until the next trip, and it was even better if time would move fast because I was always ready for my next adventure.
When Covid hit, 3 of our planned cruises got canceled right away. Adios to the 7 new countries I was planning to add to my collection of countries visited – which so far has 86. I was so frustrated.
After all those “2 weeks to flatten the curve” predictions, I saw that there were no cruises coming in 2020. I needed a new distraction, so I focused more on exercising and eating healthy. Instead of using exercise to fill the time between my trips, I started to enjoy every single movement. I started to do Pilates and weight training with my eyes closed and focus on each muscle of my body. It has been almost a year now. Miracles don’t happen overnight. I don’t look like a Goddess (LOL!) nor am I in a hurry. I am truly enjoying the process. I am not as anxious, and I am definitely stopping to smell the roses and appreciate the sunshine during my power walk.
Even If this was the only positive experience I could get from this awful pandemic, I feel blessed.
As we all know, weddings and honeymoons in 2020 did not happen with their usual glamour, and probably will not happen again until at least fall of 2021.
Hopefully, many couples who were together before Covid continue to be in love and possibly even grew stronger together during this pandemic. Other relationships may have started during Covid, not an easy path but definitely a very promising one. Some may have luckily discovered during the pandemic that their love was not going to survive difficult times and broke up. We saw them all.
What we will definitely see is an increase of destination weddings and honeymoons in 2022. Be ready to book them!
If I were working on destination weddings and honeymoons the first piece of advice I would give to my prospective clients is to send the SAVE THE DATE – yesterday! (LOL, by that I mean the soonest possible) so they can guarantee their guest list, before people promise to go to other weddings.
In terms of destination weddings, the sooner they can sign the contract with the resort/hotel and airlines for the group rooms/seats the better the chances for great deals and prime locations. For the airlines, booking early will offer more direct flights than multiple stops.
Honeymooners want to make sure to they choose their dream destination with worry free travel after a well-deserved wedding.