New US president Joe Biden has been urged to “safely reopen” the country’s borders to international visitors by removing travel bans and using a “risk-based” Covid-19 testing regime.
US Travel Association president and chief executive Roger Dow acknowledged the “hardships” the pandemic has inflicted on the US travel industry including the loss of 4.5 million jobs, during his annual State of the Travel Industry speech in Washington DC on Wednesday (27 January).
“Our goal is not simply to recover what we’ve lost, but to rebuild an industry that’s even better positioned than before the crisis – one that’s more globally competitive, more innovative and more unified,” said Dow.
US president Biden has already moved to keep tough Covid border measures in place for international visitors – reversing a plan by his predecessor Donald Trump to lift these restrictions.
Dow said: “The administration should safely reopen international travel through risk-based Covid-19 testing protocols and remove international travel bans.
“These should be the first steps in setting a national goal to welcome 116 million annual visitors to the US by 2028 and re-establish the United States as the most welcoming country in the world.
“Once international travel can safely resume, a surge in global travel demand can provide a huge boost to our economy. But visitors from around the world must choose to visit America and spend their travel dollars here.”
Dow also urged US policymakers to start treating travel as an “export on par with other US industries” to help the destination compete for international tourists in the post-Covid world.
“To help develop a coherent, government-wide strategy to boost travel exports, we have called on the Biden administration to establish a new assistant secretary for travel and tourism within the Department of Commerce,” he added.
“In 2019, travel was America’s second-largest industry export, accounting for 10% of all US exports of goods and services. International visitors spent $255 billion in the US that year, generating a travel trade surplus of $59 billion. In other words, without travel, America’s overall trade deficit would have been 10% larger.”
Dow also stressed that travel should also become a “central component” in any trade deal with other countries, including a possible post-Brexit deal with the UK.
“All of this will increase our travel competitiveness. But to become a true global leader, America must also be viewed as a welcoming nation," he said.
“We must show the world that we want people to visit our great country and that we are ready to embrace visitors from near and far. This is why the mission of Brand USA is more important than ever.”