CDC Expected to Lift COVID Testing Requirements on Sunday

CNN has reported that the Biden administration will lift pre-departure testing requirements for inbound air travelers to the United States on June 12 at midnight.

In response, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow issued the following statement:

“Today marks another huge step forward for the recovery of inbound air travel and the return of international travel to the United States. The Biden administration is to be commended for this action, which will welcome back visitors from around the world and accelerate the recovery of the U.S. travel industry.

“International inbound travel is vitally important to businesses and workers across the country who have struggled to regain losses from this valuable sector. More than half of international travelers in a recent survey pointed to the pre-departure testing requirement as a major deterrent for inbound travel to the U.S.

“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.

“A new analysis found that repealing the pre-departure testing requirement could bring an additional 5.4 million visitors to the U.S. and an additional $9 billion in travel spending through the remainder of 2022."

American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) President & CEO Zane Kerby issued the following statement: “We are thrilled to see the end of the CDC’s inbound testing rule, which has been standing in the way of our industry’s recovery for too long. Since the start of the year, ASTA has been engaged in a multi-layered advocacy campaign to get to this point, including direct lobbying of Congress and Administration officials, grassroots action and pressure through national and local media. We commend the Biden Administration for taking this long-overdue step and thank ASTA members across the country for their hard work in helping get this across the finish line. While plenty of challenges remain in terms of rebuilding the travel agency business, today is a great day.” 

Some background from just this week: 

A bipartisan group of 38 mayors representing American cities and counties spanning Miami to San Francisco had sent a letter to the Biden administration on Tuesday asking for the removal of pre-departure testing as a requirement for U.S. entry by air for vaccinated individuals. Mayors of Houston, Atlanta, Minneapolis and Philadelphia also sent separate letters to the administration with the same request, totaling 42 mayors. 

In the group’s letter, the leaders state: “American cities are still struggling to regain international visitors after more than two years of pandemic-related restrictions. In 2021, international visitation was a staggering 78% below pre-pandemic levels. Our constituents and our businesses suffered greatly from this steep decline in international travel spending, and they cannot fully recover until this vital sector of the U.S. economy rebounds.”

More than 40 nations have recently lifted pre-departure testing requirements without negatively impacting public health. While nearly all other aspects of the economy have reopened without a testing requirement, inbound air travel for vaccinated individuals remains an outlier. For example, the U.S. government does not require proof of a negative COVID-19 test at U.S. land border ports of entry.

The letter from U.S. mayors follows a similar appeal by more than 260 travel businesses and organizations from across the U.S., who sent a May letter to the administration requesting the removal of pre-departure testing. 

Bipartisan members of Congress have also asked the administration to remove the testing requirement, with a bipartisan letter in the U.S. House led by Reps. Correa and Salazar, a letter from the Nevada congressional delegation, and a letter signed by more than 30 U.S. senators.

Speaking from Orlando at the U.S. Travel Association international trade event IPW, U.S. Travel President and CEO Roger Dow echoed the mayors' request, calling the U.S. government’s pre-departure testing requirement an “unnecessary hurdle and major deterrent to traveling to the U.S.”

At a U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade and Export Promotion hearing held recently, U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes testified on the need to immediately end the government’s pre-departure testing requirement for vaccinated inbound air travelers. She noted how the existing policy is depressing a significant amount of travel to the U.S. and does not provide a meaningful benefit to public health.

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