Travel Trade Urges Biden Admin to Lift COVID Travel Restrictions

With new guidance issued Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that relaxes many COVID-era policies—including indoor mask wearing—the U.S. Travel Association, American Hotel and Lodging Association, Airlines for America and U.S. Chamber of Commerce are urging 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. Along with the updated CDC guidelines, the groups noted “declining hospitalization rates, increased immunity, widely available vaccines and cutting-edge treatments on the horizon” as reasons to make the change to the new policies.

Among the steps the administration should take “to normalize travel conditions,” the trade groups say the pre-departure testing requirement for vaccinated inbound air travelers and the federal mask mandate for public transportation should be repealed. In addition, the groups are calling for the end of “Avoid Travel" advisories and the use of travel bans, working with other countries to create cohesive entry requirements, develop benchmarks and timelines for a pathway to “the new normal” and repealing pandemic-focused travel restrictions, and making it clear to the American public that the world is again safe to travel—particularly for vaccinated individuals.

Effective, risk-based policies can be reinstated at any time if new variants of concern emerge or if the public health situation deteriorates, the groups added. “It is now time for the administration to lead the country towards a new normal for travel and on a faster path to a full and even economic recovery,” they said.

These policies are crucial to restoring the U.S. economy and workforce as travel was the largest services-based U.S. export prior to the pandemic. In 2021, as many other sectors of the economy reached a full recovery, business travel spending was approximately 50 percent below 2019 levels, while international travel spending was down 78 percent compared to 2019.

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