President Biden must set a May 1 deadline to commit to a plan for reopening the US to inbound international travel.
The call came from 26 US travel and aviation industry organisations in a letter urging the White House “to partner with us to develop… a risk-based, data-driven roadmap to rescind inbound international travel restrictions”.
The May timeline for an international reopening plan is supported by the president’s priority to make every American eligible for a vaccination by May 1.
International arrivals to the US fell 81% from overseas markets last year while number were down 62% from neighbouring Mexico and 77% from Canada for a total loss to the US economy of $146 billion.
Travel’s total economic output in the US declined by more than a trillion dollars in 2020, with 5.6 million travel-supported jobs lost – 65% of all jobs lost in the coubtry last year.
The US Travel Association estimates that a total of a 1.1 million American jobs will not be restored and $262 billion in export spending will be lost by the end of 2021 if nothing is done to lift international travel bans and bring back demand
However, if travel from the top inbound markets to the US is able to safely resume by July 4 and reach an average of 40% of 2019 levels for the remainder this year, it would accelerate economic recovery by adding $30 billion in incremental spending and bringing back 225,000 American jobs.
US Travel Association president and chief executive Roger Dow said: “Travel and tourism is the industry hardest hit by the economic fallout of Covid, and the damage is so severe that a broader economic recovery will stall if we can’t get travel off the ground.
“Fortunately, enough progress has been made on the health front that a rebound for domestic leisure travel looks possible this year, but that alone won’t get the job done.
“A full travel recovery will depend on reopening international markets, and we must also contend with the challenge of reviving business travel.”
The letter emphasises that controlling the pandemic must remain a top priority.
“To be clear, at this time, we do not support removal or easing of core public health protections, such as the universal mask mandate, inbound international testing requirement, physical distancing or other measures that have made travel safer and reduced transmission of the virus,” the letter says.
“However, the data and science demonstrate that the right public health measures are now in place to effectively mitigate risk and allow for the safe removal of entry restrictions.”
The letter points to favourable trends in infections, hospitalisations, and vaccinations as indicating the proper moment to set a timeline for reopening.
“Taken together, these factors paint a clear picture,” the letter reads. “The risk of Covid-19 transmission while flying is low. Vaccination rates and immunity are increasing rapidly throughout the U.S. The burden of the virus on our nation’s public health system is decreasing. Airlines, airports and travel businesses have the right protections and strategies in place to mitigate risk.
“We are ready to welcome back travellers and keep them safe. And the time to plan for and chart a defined roadmap to reopen international travel is now.”
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