US travel leaders have called on president Joe Biden to set a 1 May deadline by which to confirm a plan for reopening the country to international visitors.
A letter signed by 26 US tourism organisations urged Biden’s administration to work alongside the sector to develop “a risk-based, data-driven roadmap” in order to ease inbound travel restrictions.
The May timeline for an international reopening plan tallies with Biden’s efforts to make every American eligible for a vaccination by 1 May.
Travel organisations are asking the US government to set reopening goals based around “favourable trends in infections, hospitalisations, and vaccinations”.
“To be clear, at this time, we do not support removal or easing of core public health protections, such as the universal mask mandate, inbound international testing requirement, physical distancing or other measures that have made travel safer and reduced transmission of the virus,” the letter states.
“However, the data and science demonstrate that the right public health measures are now in place to effectively mitigate risk and allow for the safe removal of entry restrictions.
“Taken together, these factors paint a clear picture.”
The letter adds: “The risk of Covid-19 transmission while flying is low. Vaccination rates and immunity are increasing rapidly throughout the US. The burden of the virus on our nation’s public health system is decreasing. Airlines, airports and travel businesses have the right protections and strategies in place to mitigate risk.
“We are ready to welcome back travellers and keep them safe and the time to plan for and chart a defined roadmap to reopen international travel is now.”
The letter stresses that 2020 saw international arrivals to the US fall 62% year-on-year from Mexico, 77% from Canada, and a 81% from overseas markets – causing a total loss to the US economy of $146 billion.
Travel’s economic output in the US declined by more than a trillion dollars in 2020, the letter outlines, with 5.6 million travel-supported jobs lost - equating for 65% of all US jobs lost last year.
If nothing is done to lift international travel ban, the US Travel Association estimates a further 1.1 million American jobs will go by the end of 2021.
Roger Dow, president and chief executive of the US Travel Association, added: “Travel and tourism is the industry hardest hit by the economic fallout of Covid, and the damage is so severe that a broader economic recovery will stall if we can’t get travel off the ground.
“Fortunately, enough progress has been made on the health front that a rebound for domestic leisure travel looks possible this year, but that alone won’t get the job done. A full travel recovery will depend on reopening international markets, and we must also contend with the challenge of reviving business travel.”