With new guidance issued in late February by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that relaxes many COVID-era policies—including indoor mask-wearing—the US Travel Association, the American Hotel and Lodging Association, Airlines for America, and the US Chamber of Commerce are appealing to the Biden administration to follow suit for travel. In a letter to White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients , the associations urge the administration to replace current requirements with endemic-focused policies that enable travel to resume fully and safely and the American economy to accelerate its recovery. Mask-wearing on transportation will continue to be enforced at least through March 18.
According to the associations, these policies are crucial to restoring the US economy and workforce as travel was the largest services-based US export prior to the pandemic. In 2021, as many other sectors of the economy reached a full recovery, business travel spending was approximately down 50 percent and international travel spending was down a staggering 78 percent compared to 2019.
The associations assert that given travel’s slow economic recovery, and considering the improved public health metrics in the US and medical advancements to prevent the worst outcomes of COVID, the Biden administration should now take steps to normalize travel conditions, which include repealing both the pre-departure testing requirement for vaccinated inbound air travelers and the federal mask mandate for public transportation, among other key policies. The associations note that effective, risk-based policies can be reinstated at any time if new variants of concern emerge or the public health situation deteriorates.
- Remove the pre-departure testing requirement for all fully vaccinated inbound international arrivals.
- By March 18, repeal the federal mask mandate for public transportation networks or provide a clear roadmap to remove the mask mandate within 90 days.
- End “Avoid Travel” advisories and the use of travel bans.
- Work with other countries to normalize travel conditions and entry requirements.
- By June 1, develop benchmarks and timelines for a pathway to the new normal that repeals pandemic-focused travel restrictions.
- Send a clear message to the American public and the world that it is safe to travel again, particularly for vaccinated individuals.
Visit ustravel.org for more information.