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The U.S. Travel Association and 26 other organizations have penned a letter to the White House asking the administration to partner with them to “develop…a risk-based, data-driven roadmap to rescind inbound international travel restrictions.”
Leaders in both the travel and aviation industries are asking for a plan by May 1, 2021.
“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,” said U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow. “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.”
In the letter, they noted that 2020 international arrivals to the U.S. fell 62 percent from Mexico versus the previous year, 77 percent from Canada and 81 percent from overseas markets—for a total loss to the U.S. economy of $146 billion last year.
U.S. Travel estimates that if these international travel bans aren’t lifted, the U.S. economy may not restore the jobs of 1.1 million Americans, and they estimate $262 billion in export spending will be lost by the end of 2021.
Were travel to resume by July 4, 2021, and reach approximately 40 percent of 2019 levels for the remainder of the year, U.S. Travel says it would stimulate an economic recovery by adding $30 billion in incremental spending and bringing back 225,000 American jobs.
However, the letter states that controlling the pandemic should also be of the utmost priority, and notes that its May timeline for an international reopening plan is supported by President Biden’s priority to make every American eligible for a vaccination by May 1.
“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,” reads the letter. “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 also highlights favorable trends, including declining infections and hospitalizations as well as the increase in the number of Americans vaccinated.
“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 travelers and keep them safe. And the time to plan for and chart a defined roadmap to reopen international travel is now.”