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.