'Today is a great day': Travel industry reacts to lifting of predeparture, inbound Covid testing

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A sign points the way to the Covid-19 PCR testing center in the departures area at Sabiha Gokcen Airport in Istanbul.
A sign points the way to the Covid-19 PCR testing center in the departures area at Sabiha Gokcen Airport in Istanbul. Photo Credit: Nelson Antoine/Shutterstock.com

The travel industry cheered the end of the predeparture testing requirement for inbound air travelers, which the Biden administration said would expire June 12.

In a tweet, White House assistant press secretary Kevin Munoz confirmed that the "US will end Covid-19 testing requirement for air travelers entering the country" and said that the CDC would "evaluate its need based on the science and in context of circulating variants."

Related: Brands applaud the end of a policy they say held back travel

U.S. Travel, which has been lobbying hard for the repeal of the rule, said it would mean an additional 5.4 million visitors and $9 billion in travel spend for the U.S. this year.

Roger Dow
Roger Dow

"Today marks another huge step forward for the recovery of inbound air travel and the return of international travel to the United States," U.S. Travel CEO Roger Dow said in a statement. "The Biden administration is to be commended for this action, which will welcome back visitors from around the world and accelerate the recovery of the U.S. travel industry."

ASTA also commended the news and along with U.S. Travel had made its repeal the Society's top legislative priority for some time.

"We are thrilled to see the end of the CDC's inbound testing rule, which has been standing in the way of our industry's recovery for too long," said ASTA CEO Zane Kerby. "We commend the Biden administration for taking this long-overdue step and thank ASTA members across the country for their hard work in helping get this across the finish line. While plenty of challenges remain in terms of rebuilding the travel agency business, today is a great day."

Zane Kerby
Zane Kerby

ASTA, U.S. Travel and many other travel industry groups have been advocating to end the requirement for months, as most other Western nations dropped theirs. The industry had lobbied Congress and White House officials and had taken grassroots action, encouraging constituent to rally their representatives on the issue. The rule was the main issue ASTA planned to address during its annual Congressional fly-in, Legislative Day, later this month in Washington.

And during this week's IPW conference in Orlando, the testing requirement was identified as the main obstacle to travel's recovery by U.S. Travel and several other industry leaders.

At IPW, Dow said that after meeting with the White House's Coronavirus Task Force last week, its members agreed that the logic for the testing was "not there" and that "the science and data does not support the testing requirement."

Nick Calio
Nick Calio

U.S. airlines, too, have lobbied for months for the testing requirement to be lifted. In a statement today, Airlines for America CEO Nick Calio said that the industry appreciates Friday's decision by the Biden administration, "in accordance with the current epidemiological environment."

"Lifting this policy will help encourage and restore air travel to the United States, benefiting communities across the country that rely heavily on travel and tourism to support their local economies," Calio said. "We are eager to welcome the millions of travelers who are ready to come to the U.S. for vacation, business and reunions with loved ones."

Terry Dale, CEO of the USTOA, said the requirement has "depressed a significant amount of travel to the U.S. and hasn't provided any meaningful benefit to public health for some time. Removing the predeparture testing requirement will incentivize vaccination, increase demand for international travel to and from the U.S. and better align passenger aviation entry requirements with those at U.S. land border points of entry and other major travel-trade partners abroad."

The Global Business Travel Association called the requirement the "remaining key barrier impacting the return of travel. It is vital to global recovery that we continue to show that America is open for business and for business travel. Americans have been unwilling to take the chance of being unable to return to the U.S. at the end of their business trip or vacation. This will also help to ensure we create an easy path forward for international travelers to return to the U.S. for business, conferences and meetings. We've made progress in returning to life and business and cannot afford to go backwards," said Suzanne Neufang, CEO of the GBTA.

Meanwhile American Hotel and Lodging Association CEO Chip Rogers said the announcement was "a significant win for hotels and the broader travel industry," adding that the testing requirement "was out of date and had a chilling effect on inbound international travel to the U.S. Lifting the requirement will make travel easier, facilitating more international visitors and helping hotels continue on the road to recovery, especially as we approach peak travel season this summer."

This report was updated at 3:30 p.m. on June 10 to add reaction from the USTOA, Global Business Travel Association and American Hotel and Lodging Association.

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