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Pre-Departure Testing is a Barrier to International Travel and Economic Recovery

-Editorial

A new survey conducted by Morning Consult for U.S. Travel Association reveals the inbound pre-departure testing requirement imposed by the federal government is having a devastating impact on travelers’ likelihood of visiting the United States this summer and remains a major barrier to economic recovery. 

A survey of vaccinated international travelers in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Japan, and India found that pre-departure testing requirements are a deterrent to travel and are making it significantly less likely that people will choose to visit the U.S.

Nearly half of respondents (47%) who are unlikely to travel abroad in the next 12 months cited pre-departure testing requirements as a reason.

More than half of international travelers (54%) said the added uncertainty of potentially having to cancel a trip due to U.S. pre-departure testing requirements would have a big impact on their likelihood to visit the U.S.

A large majority of adults surveyed (71%) agree they prioritize traveling to destinations without cumbersome entry requirements, including 29% who strongly agree.

AN OPPORTUNITY TO SAVE THE SUMMER TRAVEL SEASON

Despite the bleak projections for inbound travel, there is still time for the Biden administration to save the summer travel season and accelerate recovery for travel businesses. Forty-six percent of international travelers would be more likely to visit the United States if pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated adults were lifted. If the removal of the pre-departure testing requirement would bring an increase of just 20% more visitors this summer, it would mean an additional half a million visitors each month and $2 billion in valuable U.S. travel exports. Throughout the summer, that spending could directly support approximately 40,000 U.S. jobs. 

This is particularly urgent as international arrivals to the U.S. are still far below pre-pandemic levels and are not projected to recover to 2019 levels until 2024.

“Before the pandemic, travel was the second-largest U.S. industry export and generated a positive trade balance of $53 billion,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “Inbound travel is critical to reducing the overall trade deficit, but the pre-departure testing requirement remains an unnecessary hurdle to regaining visitors and competing for global tourism dollars.

“While other countries with a similar case, vaccination and hospital rates have removed their testing requirements and have begun rebuilding their travel economies, the U.S. is at a competitive disadvantage and risks a prolonged period of recovery.”

With abundant health and safety tools in place, practically all other sectors of the U.S. economy—including domestic air travel—are operating without a federal requirement for testing; international inbound air travel remains a key exception. The Morning Consult survey follows a May 5 letter which more than 260 travel and business organizations urgently called on White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha to repeal the pre-departure testing requirement for vaccinated international air travelers.

“Many foreign governments with similar infection, vaccination, and hospitalization rates—including the United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada— have eliminated pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated travelers. Further, since the federal government does not require negative tests for entry at our land-border ports of entry with Canada and Mexico, it no longer makes sense to keep a pre-departure COVID-19 testing requirement in place for vaccinated inbound international air travelers to the U.S.” the letter read. 

U.S. Travel Association urged the Biden administration to repeal the pre-departure testing requirement for vaccinated international air travelers quickly and accelerate recovery for this critical segment of the U.S. economy.

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