Several major players in the travel industry are calling for the U.S. to eliminate testing requirements for incoming, vaccinated travelers. Groups like Airlines for America, the U.S. Travel Association, and the American Society of Travel Advisors have all pushed back on the restrictions, citing both the economy and decreases in travel.
On February 1, Zane Kerby, president and CEO of the ASTA, wrote a letter (PDF) addressing Jeffrey Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 recovery team coordinator. Urging Zients to modify CDC guidelines regarding entrance into the U.S., Kerby addressed several challenges these restrictions have had on travel.
“While we understand the rationale behind the inbound testing order, it continues to present a number of practical challenges to our members and their clients,” wrote Kerby. “These challenges range from uncertainty as to the availability of timely testing in-destination to avoid disruption to their return trip to the financial and psychological burdens associated with being prevented from returning home due to a positive (or false positive) test result, to a general chilling effect on international travel bookings.”
Just a day after Kerby’s letter to the White House, several travel and economic organizations formed an industry-wide coalition also addressing Mr. Zients.
“On behalf of the many sectors of the travel and aviation industries, we urgently request that the Administration remove the requirement for pre-departure testing for vaccinated passengers traveling to the United States,” states the letter (PDF). “Doing so is justified by the pervasiveness of COVID cases in all 50 states, increased immunity, and higher vaccination rates as well as new treatments.”
Included in the coalition are organizations like the U.S. Travel Association, a Washington D.C.-based organization that promotes and protects the freedom of travel, and even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Furthermore, the coalition called for the White House to consider the actions of other nations, specifically the UK.
“The UK concluded that the cost to both passengers and airlines of the testing mandate could no longer be justified as there was no evidence the regime protected the population from COVID,” says the letter, calling for a reconsideration of U.S. policies and practices.
While the health and safety of travelers worldwide is the concern of all parties involved, there is a bit of a gray area formed between the ethics of health and safety practices and the success of the travel industry.
The CDC’s most recent amendment to restrictions for incoming travelers to the U.S. came late last year. “Air travelers aged two and older, regardless of nationality or vaccination status, are required to show documentation of a negative viral test result taken within one day of the flight’s departure to the United States before boarding,” the order reads.
After the spread of the omicron COVID-19 variant to the U.S., the CDC reacted swiftly with its requirements. They also recommended avoiding international travel until fully vaccinated as it poses an increased health risk.
With international air travel decreasing at 38 percent since 2019, according to Reuters, travel industry leaders are going straight to the source for changes. The White House, however, has not responded.
“Travel’s like water,” Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, told Travel Weekly. “If you put a barrier in place, it will find another direction to go and people won’t travel. If you remove that barrier, it flows and flows very quickly.”
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