November 8 Is The Day The US COVID-19 Travel Ban Ends

COVID-19 isn’t over. But the U.S. pandemic travel ban will finally ease on November 8, 2021, as fully vaccinated international travelers will be allowed to enter the United States. That is almost two years after the first ban (on travelers from China) was imposed in January of 2020.

Should airlines, hotels, and destinations brace for millions of international travelers to return? They will not all arrive on November 8. But travelers will want to visit family in the U.S., hit warm weather travel spots like Florida and California, and see New York and other U.S. cities during the holidays. The elusive business traveler from Europe, China and India may also make a re-appearance, as face-to-face meetings and giant trade shows like CES in January 2022 return.

In September, the White House had said that the 600-day ban, originated by the Trump Administration and continued by President Biden, would end at some point in November. No date was announced.

But on October 15, White House Assistant Press Secretary Kevin Muniz tweeted, “The US’ [sic] new travel policy that requires vaccination for foreign national travelers to the United States will begin on Nov 8. This announcement and date applies to both international air travel and land travel. This policy is guided by public health, stringent, and consistent.”

In order to enter the U.S., international travelers will need to show proof of vaccination as well as a negative COVID-19 test before flying. Acceptable vaccines include those authorized by American authorities or the World Health Organization. Details to be worked out include the vaccination status of children under eighteen, although it is expected that they will be exempted.

Travelers from thirty-three countries who are not US citizens have been barred from entering the U.S. for the entire length of the pandemic. This included the 26-nation Schengen Zone (European Union), the United Kingdom, China, India, and Brazil. As Reuters put it, “The unprecedented travel restrictions kept millions of visitors out of the United States…shrunk U.S. tourism; and hurt border community economies. They prevented many loved ones and foreign workers from reuniting with families.”

In terms of dollars and cents, declines in international visitation since the beginning of the pandemic resulted in more than $250 billion in lost income, according to U.S. Travel Association Chief Executive Roger Dow.

The UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain were among European countries that reopened to American travelers. But the U.S. has not reciprocated until now. This has resulted in diplomatic tension considering that U.S. COVID infection rates were higher than that of other countries.

The travel ban is affecting U.S. airlines, as the Department of Transportation reported that U.S. international air passenger traffic was down 43% in August while overall air traffic was down 21% over pre-pandemic levels.

Still, ticket sales for international flights have been rising with the expectation of the relaxation of the ban. Ticket sales for JetBlue’s new UK service are up 500% and the airline even added Gatwick as a second British destination.

“We are pleased that the Administration’s new global vaccine and testing framework for international travel will be effective November 8, 2021.” Airlines For America President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio said, “U.S. airlines have been strong advocates for an individual risk-based system to safely ease travel restrictions. The full reopening of international travel is critical to reviving economies around the globe, reinvigorating communities, and supporting millions of jobs in the U.S. and abroad.”

While travel providers welcomed the easing of the ban, they did not regard it as a panacea.

“We applaud President Biden’s move to reopen America’s doors to international, fully vaccinated visitors from around the globe. It’s a step in the right direction, however, our industry remains at a pivotal point,” said American Hotel & Lodging Association President and CEO Chip Rogers. “The pandemic wiped out 10 years of job growth in the hotel industry, and unless Congress passes relief for hotel employees like the Save Hotel Jobs Act, COVID-related travel reductions will continue to threaten the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of hotel workers.”

Earlier this week the US also announced easing on ground travelers from Canada and Mexico. Travelers arriving at land borders will need proof of vaccination but will not need to show a negative test.

Canada, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, actually opened the border to vaccinated American travelers on Aug. 9, but the U.S. did not reciprocate.

The situation irritated representatives of U.S. states on the Canadian border. “The reduction in cross-border traffic has had a significant impact on local economies along the northern border, including agriculture, small businesses, and tourism,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) wrote to Speaker Nancy Pelosi in September. “These industries are the lifeblood of many northern border communities from New York to Montana that continue to inordinately feel the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Putting the trillion-dollar business of international travel back together will take time. But easing the U.S. travel ban on November 8 is a start.

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