Biden Lifts COVID Testing Requirement Internationally — How Will It Impact US Travel Industry?

International business traveler at airport stock photo
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COVID-19 testing requirements for inbound international air travelers came to an end over the weekend, raising hopes that the U.S. travel/tourism industry will get an additional boost in what is already expected to be a busy summer travel season.

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President Joe Biden announced late last week that the testing requirement would end at 12:01 a.m. ET on Sunday, June 12. What this means is foreign air travelers no longer have to provide proof that they tested negative for the virus before departing for the U.S. — something travel industry officials have spent months pushing for.

As CNBC reported, American Airlines CEO Robert Isom told an industry conference earlier this month that he met with lawmakers in Washington, D.C. to discuss the testing requirement, which he dubbed “nonsensical.”

Most noncitizen visitors to the U.S. will still have to show proof of COVID vaccination before flying here, a White House spokesman told CNBC. But the testing requirement has been seen as a much bigger impediment to inbound travel from overseas. With it no longer in place, the U.S. travel industry should see an uptick in foreign visitors who now have one less thing to fuss over.

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“Prior to the pandemic, travel was one of our nation’s largest industry exports. The lifting of this requirement will enable the industry to lead the way toward a broader U.S. economic and jobs recovery,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement.

The travel/tourism industry expects a surge in business this summer thanks to eased COVID restrictions and pent-up demand, even in the face of skyrocketing inflation for air fares, lodging, rental cars and gas. As previously reported by GOBankingRates, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said that demand for air travel “is off the charts,” despite the fact that average fares this summer could be 30% higher than pre-pandemic levels.

How much will lifting the international COVID testing requirement boost the travel business? The U.S. Travel Association estimates that eliminating it could bring 5.4 million visitors to the U.S. and an additional $9 billion in travel spending through the remainder of the calendar year, Bloomberg reported. That, in turn, should give a similar lift to hotels, restaurants and tourist spots, which rely on foreign visitors for a good chunk of their business.

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After the U.S lifted bans on certain international travelers last year, Chekitan Dev, professor of marketing and management at Cornell University’s Hotel School, noted that international visitors are “critical” to the survival of the U.S. hospitality, travel and tourism industry. “Research shows that international visitors typically spend more and stay longer than domestic travelers,” Dev wrote on the university’s website. “In addition, many overseas travelers become ambassadors for ‘Brand USA’ encouraging others to visit.”

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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