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2021 Preview

Reopening International Travel Inbound Travel

U.S. travel industry leaders share the plans in place to welcome back global travelers
Tori Barnes
Tori Emerson Barnes
IPWD: How is U.S. Travel working with the U.S. government to reopen borders?

Roger Dow: U.S. Travel has convened several meetings between top CEOs in the travel industry and the Biden administration, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Department of Commerce and the White House. Tori Barnes [executive vice president of public affairs and policy] has also testified in front of the U.S. Congress to communicate the need for action to restart all segments of travel—including international.

We have also developed a blueprint for the U.S. government that outlines ways to restart global inbound travel—safely. We want to be good partners to both the administration and Congress and will continue to provide our expertise and data findings throughout the entire process.

IPWD: What key messages do you take to the administration and Congress? 

Dow: It’s critical to showcase international inbound travel’s impact on the economic health of our nation, including jobs and U.S. exports, as well as what’s at stake if we further delay reopening our borders.

If nothing is done to restore international travel, a total of 1.1 million American jobs and $262 billion in spending will be lost by the end of 2021. However, if top inbound markets can reach an average of 40% of 2019 levels by the end of 2021, we can restore an additional 225,000 jobs and $30 billion in travel exports this year alone.

Tori Emerson Barnes: We are also communicating that we can reopen international travel without compromising safety. A Harvard study found that the risk of COVID-19 transmission while flying is already low and the federal mask mandate has made flying even safer. The required proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure also effectively eliminates the need for quarantines.

A public health corridor between the U.S. and the U.K. could add 1.9 million arrivals and $4.4 billion in spending in 2021 alone.
IPWD: How can the government accelerate the reopening of U.S. borders?

Barnes: U.S. Travel has urged the Biden administration to develop a data-driven, risk-based roadmap by May to rescind international inbound travel restrictions by July 2021. We can start by quickly establishing “public health corridors” between the U.S. and other low-risk countries, like the United Kingdom. There should then be clear benchmarks, such as infection and vaccination rates, to determine when entry restrictions can be lifted for other countries. Additionally, as U.S. vaccinations increase, we should allow international travelers who have been vaccinated to visit, without a testing requirement. However, we will continue to emphasize that vaccines should not be a requirement to travel.

Dow: Along with a specific timeline, Brand USA, the United States’ destination marketing organization, must be in a good financial position to promote the U.S. abroad once borders reopen. We cannot restore international travel or compete in the global travel market without Brand USA.

International inbound travel will come back in a big way. IPW falls at an opportune time to reclaim your share of this lucrative market.