Leaders of 23 travel and tourism companies submitted a letter to President Biden on May 11, 2021, pleading for the reopening of the U.S. border, starting immediately in May, and more extensively come July 1st.
Directors and heads of dominant tourism brands like Wyndham Hotels, Delta Airlines, Disney Parks, Carnival Cruise Line, JetBlue, United, and Hilton Hotels came together to ask Biden’s administration to take further steps in reopening the U.S. for inbound tourism, especially as science suggests this can now safely happen.
“While U.S. borders remain closed to much of the world, the remarkable scientific advancements to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and the tremendous vaccine deployment achieved by your administration have allowed the safe resumption of many activities. For all its economic and cultural contributions, international travel should be among them and it will hasten the economic recovery we all desire. We also can rebuild our leadership on the global stage, our position in the world and bring people back together again—one of the great benefits of travel.”
According to the New York Times vaccination tracker, 46% of the U.S. has been fully vaccinated as of May 12, 2021. With such a high percentage of the population inoculated, many experts feel international travel should be able to resume safely.
The CDC has published guidance for both domestic and international travelers who are fully vaccinated which includes the statement that “Fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread SARS-CoV-2 and can now travel at low risk to themselves within the United States.” Other key advice includes:
- Fully vaccinated travelers do not need to self-quarantine in the United States following international travel.
- Fully vaccinated people can visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
- And, fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask outdoors
The letter urges Biden to reopen based on the high vaccination rate of the U.S., plus advice from the nation’s health protection agency “Based on science and data, resumption of travel between low-risk countries, and in particular among vaccinated individuals, should be allowed to resume.”
Reopen UK Travel in May
The first step suggested in the letter by the travel and tourism leaders is resuming travel between the U.K. and the U.S., immediately.
Currently, the U.K. has a higher rate of vaccination than the States, at 53% of the population having received at least the first dose, which poses a significantly lower risk for international travelers between the two countries.
“Starting with the United Kingdom, quickly establish public health corridors (PHCs) between the U.S. and other low-risk countries. We respectfully urge you to engage with Prime Minister Boris Johnson to secure a commitment to quickly establish a travel corridor between the U.S. and the U.K. The federal government should then expand similar PHCs to other low-risk countries. 2 Establishing a U.S.-U.K. public health corridor would be a crucial step in our country’s recovery. A recent study found that restarting travel between the U.S. and the U.K. could deliver over $4 billion in economic impact and support almost 300,000 jobs in the U.S. over the next several months.”
On May 10th the U.S. lifted the Level 4 travel advisory for the U.K. to a Level 3, but has not made any additional progress. The U.K. has listed the U.S. as an “Amber” country, which allows entry for non-essential purposes like tourism, but has tests and quarantines in place. Many experts suggest that if the two countries can come to an agreement, travel can safely be restored without testing or quarantines, especially for vaccinated travelers.
Reopen To More Banned Nations By July 1
The second topic on the action agenda is to have the U.S. government establish a public-private task force to develop a risk-based roadmap starting in May, being operational by July 1st.
“Similar to our global competitors, the federal government should assign a public-private task force to develop this roadmap using a risk-based data-driven approach to lift international entry restrictions. The data and science show that the right tools are now in place to mitigate risk and safely begin to ease international entry restrictions by July 1, 2021.”
If acknowledged and accepted by the government, a risk-based roadmap could see the resumption of travel to the U.S. from other EU and Schengen nations that have found themselves locked out for over a year, especially as vaccination rates continue to climb throughout Europe.
Love Is Not Tourism Movement
While any call for progress, even if voiced by tourism magnates, is a positive step for the resumption of travel, many couples who’ve been separated by travel bans feel frustrated that lost tourism dollars seem to take precedence over their heartbreak.
The Love Is Not Tourism movement has been pleading with the U.S. government to soften border rules for separated families and bi-national couples for over 1 year, with little to no progress being made.
Anna K, who has been separated from her American fiancé for 14 months told Travel Off Path, “It makes my blood boil when I hear about multi-million-dollar companies demanding the reopening for tourism when I haven’t even been able to get an exemption to join my fiancé in the states. It’s a blatant human rights issue that has been swept under the rug. Why is the promise of incoming tourism dollars the only thing that can change the law? Why isn’t reuniting with my family a priority?”
Work With Other G7 Nations For Travel Bubbles
The third and final request detailed in the letter included a call to work with other G7 nations at the upcoming summit to develop effective travel bubbles.
“Utilize the upcoming G7 summit to seek commitments from other G7 leaders to develop and implement a global framework for safely and fully reopening international travel between countries. The global framework should focus on leveraging COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, recovery status and digital health credentials to restart international travel as global conditions improve.”
Travel bubbles could theoretically be created by the start of summer for Schengen nations with high vaccination rates, like Malta and Hungary, or from nations with lower active cases than that of the U.S., like Portugal and Greece.
While EU nations like Greece are already allowing American tourists to visit, the invitation is not yet reciprocal. With other EU countries like France and Italy looking to reopen for tourists this summer from the U.S., questions are being posed as to why the U.S. hasn’t made any similar plans.
Signatures on the letter sent to Biden includes the following travel and tourism leaders, with the closing statement including “The U.S. must be a global leader in restarting international travel. Using science and data as our guide, it is possible to reopen our borders and establish these important public health corridors.”
- Roger Dow, President and Chief Executive Officer U.S. Travel Association
- Geoff Ballotti, President and Chief Executive Officer Wyndham Hotels & Resorts
- Ed Bastian, Chief Executive Officer Delta Air Lines
- Nicholas E. Calio, President and Chief Executive Officer Airlines for America
- Anthony Capuano, Chief Executive Officer Marriott International, Inc.
- Josh D’Amaro, Chairman Disney Parks, Experiences and Products
- Christine Duffy, President Carnival Cruise Line
- Robin Hayes, Chief Executive Officer JetBlue Airways Corp.
- Peter Ingram, President and Chief Executive Officer Hawaiian Airlines, Inc.
- Jerry Jacobs, Jr., Chief Executive Officer Delaware North
- Peter Kern, Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Expedia Group, Inc.
- Scott Kirby, Chief Executive Officer United Airlines
- David Kong, President and Chief Executive Officer BWH Hotel Group
- Elie Maalouf, Chief Executive Officer, Americas IHG Hotels & Resorts
- Heather McCrory, Chief Executive Officer, North & Central America Accor
- Sean Menke, President and Chief Executive Officer Sabre
- Christopher J. Nassetta, President and Chief Executive Officer Hilton
- Patrick Pacious, President and Chief Executive Officer Choice Hotels International, Inc.
- Doug Parker, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer American Airlines
- Scott Sibella, President Resorts World Las Vegas
- Chrissy Taylor, President and Chief Executive Officer Enterprise Holdings Inc.
- Jonathan Tisch, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Loews Hotels & Co
- Andrew Wexler, Chief Executive Officer Herschend Enterprises
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories