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Major travel-related agencies are calling on the Biden Administration to end COVID-19 restrictions and regulations that inhibit the near $2 trillion U.S. tourism industry.
The move comes just a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance that relaxes many of the policies enacted in the wake of the virus. The new guidance drops restrictions for 70 percent of the country.
But not on airplanes.
The federal mask mandate doesn’t come up for debate again until March 18 but the U.S. Travel Association, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, Airlines for America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are asking to rescind mask-wearing and several other key restrictions.
The group sent a letter to White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients that urges the Biden administration to replace pandemic-era travel advisories, requirements and restrictions with endemic-focused policies that enable travel to resume fully and safely and the American economy to accelerate its recovery.
The groups cited key figures to back their request, noting that business travel spending was approximately 50 percent below 2019 levels, and international travel spending was down a staggering 78 percent compared to 2019.
“Given travel’s slow economic recovery, and in light of the improved public health metrics in the U.S. and medical advancements to prevent the worst outcomes of COVID-19, the Biden administration should now take steps to normalize travel conditions,” the group wrote, saying that includes repealing both the pre-departure testing requirement for vaccinated inbound air travelers and the federal mask mandate for public transportation.
Specifically, the groups asked the following:
Remove the pre-departure testing requirement for all fully vaccinated inbound international arrivals.
By March 18, repeal the federal mask mandate for public transportation networks or provide a clear roadmap to remove the mask mandate within 90 days.
End “Avoid Travel” advisories and the use of travel bans.
Work with other countries to normalize travel conditions and entry requirements.
By June 1, develop benchmarks and timelines for a pathway to the new normal that repeals pandemic-focused travel restrictions.
Send a clear message to the American public and the world that it is safe to travel again, particularly for vaccinated individuals.
“This industry group remains ready to assist the Biden administration in advancing these necessary endemic-era policies and restoring the U.S. travel economy,” according to the letter.
Earlier this week, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) said they are cooperating to aid in the recovery of the travel sector and are also calling for the easing of travel restrictions wherever possible.