US lifts travel ban on vaccinated foreigners

US lifts travel ban on vaccinated foreigners

The United States reopened its borders on Monday to fully vaccinated travelers from dozens of countries, ending more than 18 months of restrictions on international travel that separated families from loved ones and cost the global travel industry hundreds of billions of dollars in tourism revenue.

Under the new rules, fully vaccinated travelers will be allowed to enter the US if they can show proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test within three calendar days of travel. Unvaccinated Americans and children under the age of 18 are exempt from the requirement, but must take a test within one day of travel.

The shift has come in time for the holiday season, when the beleaguered tourism industry eagerly awaits an influx of international visitors, especially in popular destinations in major cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Miami. The extensive travel ban from 33 countries — including members of the European Union, China, India and Iran — devastated the industry, resulting in losses of nearly $300 billion in visitor spending and more than a million American jobs, according to the US Travel Association.

“Monday begins the return of international travel in earnest, when long-separated families and friends can safely reunite, travelers can explore this amazing country, and the US is able to reconnect with the global community,” said Roger Dow, president of the Association and director. “It’s a monumental day for travelers, for the communities and businesses that depend on international visitors, and for the American economy at large.”

Airlines saw a major spike in online searches and ticket bookings for international travel — particularly from Europe and Latin America — after the government announced its plans to ease travel restrictions in September.

American Airlines said bookings were up 66 percent for flights between Britain and the United States, 40 percent for those from Europe and 74 percent for Brazil in the three days after the announcement, compared to a comparable period a week earlier. United Airlines said it sold more tickets for transatlantic flights in the days following the announcement than in a comparable period in 2019, a first since the start of the pandemic.

Delta Air Lines said many of its international flights were fully booked on Monday. The airline’s first flight to the United States under the relaxed restrictions, DL106, is expected to arrive in Atlanta at 9:35 a.m. Monday from São Paulo, Brazil. By the end of Monday, Delta expects to fly 139 mostly full aircraft from 38 countries to the US

Hotels across the country, especially those in cities, also felt the impact of the reopening announcement, with increased bookings and interest over the holiday season. Hyatt, the hotel group, said about 50 percent of bookings by international travelers to the U.S. for the week of Nov. 8 came after the date was announced in mid-October, with travelers flocking to the top cities.

Chef Daniel Boulud, who owns several restaurants in New York City, said customers from abroad have already started calling for reservations or getting on a waiting list.

He added that while his restaurants were already “quite busy”, buoyed by domestic tourism and a trickle of international visitors, “the tap was not yet open for tourism.” International tourists, he said, will bring much-needed pedestrian traffic, particularly to his restaurants near the theater district.

Many of the planes departing for the United States in the coming weeks will be packed with travelers reuniting with family and friends after more than a year. Felicity Fowler, a retired homeopath from London, missed the birth of her grandson. He was born in New York in April; she has not seen her daughter, his mother, since February 2020.

“It was an emotional torture to be so far away from my girl at a time when she needed me the most,” she said in an interview. “We have to make up for lost time.”

Although demand is increasing, the changes have not had a direct major effect on the number of scheduled international flights. In the first week under the relaxed rules, airlines will operate an average of 1,390 daily flights to the United States, up from just 35 daily flights from the week before, according to figures from airline data provider Cirium. However, the data does not indicate how many seats have been sold per flight and the number of daily flights is expected to rise again by 40 in the second week after reopening.

With continued risks from coronavirus variants and uncertainty over the course of the pandemic, the US Travel Association does not expect international inbound travel to recover to 2019 levels until at least 2024.

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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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