The US Travel Association’s conference, IPW, is underway this week in Orlando, Florida, and international visitation is on the mind of President & CEO Roger Dow. At issue is the United States’ pre-departure testing requirement for inbound vaccinated air travelers, which Dow notes is having an impact on the post-COVID recovery of the travel and tourism industry, especially as most other sectors are booming. Dow says that international travel spending in the US was still 79 percent below 2019 levels in 2021, while domestic leisure travel continues to be strong despite inflation and higher gas prices.
A recent survey conducted by Morning Consult for US Travel Association (USTA) found that these regulations remain a major barrier to economic recovery, and is contributing to a lag in jobs returning to the leisure & hospitality sector. In that survey, more than half (54 percent) of international travelers polled said the added uncertainty of potentially having to cancel a trip due to US pre-departure testing requirements would have a negative impact on their likelihood to visit the US.
“The recovery of American travel jobs and visitor spending hinges upon the annual growth of international inbound travel. America must apply every possible resource at rebuilding it to full strength to benefit American workers and businesses in every pocket of the country,” said Dow. “More than 40 nations have safely removed their pre-departure testing requirement and a recent survey found that 54 percent of international travelers were less likely to visit the US with the requirement still in place. Average wait times for visa appointments have also soared to more than a year in some of our top source markets, which prevents millions of people from visiting.”
Although the association continues to remain vocal about their efforts, including during a recent meeting with White House officials in late May, Dow is encouraged by the efforts of the administration’s new National Travel and Tourism Strategy, which includes a four-point plan to boost international travel through 2027 and is being led by Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
“We commend the leadership of Commerce Secretary Raimondo and the Tourism Policy Council and applaud the ambitious goal of attracting 90 million visitor arrivals annually in the US by 2027. The strategy sets out specific actions that the government can take to rebuild our travel economy and make it more globally competitive than it was before the pandemic,” he said. “There is a lot of work ahead, but the administration must start by immediately repealing the pre-departure testing requirement for all vaccinated international air travelers and taking steps to drastically lower visa wait times.”
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