It appears that hopes that the US would begin lifting travel restrictions have recently been dashed. Despite recent lifting of travel restrictions on Americans by Canada, the UK and EU, the White House remains committed to keeping America’s borders closed for international travel for now.
Reuters first reported this week that, The United States will not lift any existing travel restrictions “at this point” due to concerns over the highly transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant and the rising number of U.S. coronavirus cases.” This was shortly confirmed by the Biden administration.
Reopening the United States to international visitors is seen as a key test to whether or not the travel industry can begin to put the pandemic behind it.
“Given where we are today … with the Delta variant, we will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday, citing the spread of the Delta variant in the United States and abroad. “Driven by the Delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated and appear likely continue to increase in the weeks ahead.”
The response from the U.S. Travel Association, a national, non-profit organization representing all components of the travel industry was swift and disappointed. Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes issued a statement on the Biden administration’s decision to uphold travel restrictions.
“Covid variants are of concern, but closed borders have not prevented the Delta variant from entering the U.S. while vaccinations are proving incredibly durable to the virus’ evolution. This is why America’s travel industry is a vocal proponent of everyone getting a vaccine—it’s the surest and fastest path to normalcy for everyone.”
She went on to acknowledge that the United States’ major allies were working to help bring the US back into the world travel community. “While other nations, like Canada, the U.K. and much of the E.U., have all taken steps to welcome inbound travelers this summer and rebuild jobs and local economies, the United States remains closed to one of the most important segments of the travel economy—the international inbound traveler.”
“Given the high rates of vaccination on both sides of the Atlantic, it is possible to begin safely welcoming back vaccinated visitors from these crucial inbound markets.”Tori Emerson Barnes
The announcement almost certainly dooms any bid by U.S. airlines and the U.S. tourism industry to salvage summer travel by Canadians, Europeans and others covered by the restrictions. Industry watchers fear they will now have to wait until September or later for a possible revision.
Reuters reported last week the White House was discussing the potential of mandating COVID-19 vaccines for international visitors, but no decisions have been made, sources briefed on the matter said.
Separately some experts say the Biden team is discussing with airlines about establishing international contact tracing for passengers before lifting travel restrictions. Stand by as this is still a rapidly evolving story.