International travel to the U.S. has been hindered by requirements that international air travelers provide a negative COVID test result prior to entering the U.S., regardless of their vaccination status or country of origin. Now the travel industry, and by extension those in the meeting and event planning community, are hailing an effort in Congress to eliminate the international air travel COVID testing requirement.
Spearheaded by Congressman Lou Correa (D-CA), the bipartisan group of 15 congressional members sent a letter to President Biden calling for fully vaccinated travelers to be exempt from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) current 24-hour negative COVID-19 testing requirement for inbound international travel.
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had a long-term impact on the travel and tourist industry in our country,” Correa said. “Travel is a critical component of the economy of my district, and despite the changes of COVID-19 travel restrictions, travel to and from the United States continues to be challenging. Travelers are scared of being stranded abroad and having their vacation plans wrecked, which is preventing the revival of our domestic travel and tourism industries. It is past time for our testing criteria to be brought into line with those used by other countries.”
Jenifer Rosa, Agency Owner and Travel Advisor with Cruise Planners, agrees. She told the Times Leader recently, “If the government is unable to provide increased funding to hard-hit businesses like my travel agency, at the very least, exempting vaccinated travelers from this rule would help my business begin to recover from the devastation of COVID-19.
“My message to elected officials in Congress, on behalf of the more than 160,000 people who work in the travel agency industry is simple: When it comes to travel planning, we need consistency and certainty. The solution is within our reach: Exempt fully vaccinated U.S. travelers from the inbound testing requirement.”
The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) also is on board. ASTA members wrote in support of the effort, “While we understand the rationale behind the inbound testing order when it was put in place in January 2021, it continues to present a number of challenges to our constituents…whose livelihoods depend on a fully functioning international travel system.
“Exempting fully vaccinated travelers, including almost 215 million Americans, from the order would be consistent with the scientific consensus that widespread vaccinations are the single most important element of the fight against COVID-19 while allowing the travel industry’s recovery to begin in earnest,” ASTA explained. “It would also incentivize those who aren’t vaccinated to consider becoming so.”
In addition to Correa, the bipartisan group includes Reps. Maria Salazar (R-FL), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Ken Buck (R-CO), Jim Costa (D-CA), Harold Rogers (R-KY), Congressional Travel & Tourism Caucus Co-Chair Dina Titus (D-NV), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Susie Lee (D-NV), Caucus Co-Chair Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Carlos Gimenez (R-FL), John Katko (R-NY), Mark Amodei (R-NV), David Valadao (R-CA) and Larry Bucshon (R-IN).
While this is the latest push on the part of the travel industry to take down the U.S. entry testing requirement for international air travelers, it’s not the first. Just a few months ago, travel organizations including Airlines for America, AHLA, GBTA, IATA, and the U.S. Travel Association sent a similar letter pushing for the removal of the testing requirement for fully vaccinated U.S. citizens to White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients.