With new guidelines released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that relax many COVID-era policies, including indoor mask-wearing, the US Travel Association, the American Hotel and Lodging AssociationAirlines for America and the US Chamber of Commerce appeal to White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeffrey Zients in a letter urging the Biden administration to replace the advisories, requirements and restrictions of pandemic-era travel through endemic-focused policies that allow travel to fully and safely resume and the U.S. economy to accelerate its recovery.4
These policies are crucial to restoring America’s economy and workforce, as travel was America’s largest services-based export before the pandemic. In 2021, like many other sectors of the economy have reached a full recovery:
- Business travel spending was about 50% below 2019 levels; and
- International travel spending fell 78% from 2019.
Given the slow economic recovery in travel, and in light of improved public health measures in the United States and medical advances to prevent the worst outcomes of COVID-19, the Biden administration should now take measures to normalize travel conditions, which include the repeal of the pre-departure testing requirement for air travelers vaccinated on arrival and the federal mask mandate for public transportation, among other key policies.
Recommendations for restoring movement:
- Waive the pre-departure testing requirement for all fully vaccinated international arrivals.
- By March 18, repeal the federal mask mandate for public transportation systems or provide a clear roadmap to remove the mask mandate within 90 days.
- End “Avoid Travel” advisories and the use of travel bans.
- Work with other countries to standardize travel and entry requirements.
- By June 1, develop benchmarks and timelines for a path to the new normal that repeals pandemic-focused travel restrictions.
- Send a clear message to the American public and the world that it is once again safe to travel, especially for vaccinated people.
Effective, risk-based policies can be reinstated at any time if new variants of concern emerge or the public health situation deteriorates. Now is the time for the administration to lead the country into a new normal for travel and onto a faster path to a full and even economic recovery.