Biden removes COVID testing requirements internationally – how will this affect the US travel industry?

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COVID-19 testing requirements for arriving international air passengers were dropped over the weekend, raising hopes that the US travel/tourism industry will get an extra boost in what is already expected to be a busy summer travel season.

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President Joe Biden announced late last week that the testing requirement would end at 00:01 ET on Sunday, June 12. This means that foreign air passengers no longer need to provide proof that they have tested negative for the virus before flying to the US. — something that tourism industry officials have been pushing for months.

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According to CNBC, American Airlines CEO Robert Isom told an industry conference earlier this month that he met with lawmakers in Washington, D.C. to discuss testing requirements, which he called “nonsensical.”

A White House spokesman told CNBC that most non-citizens arriving in the US will still have to show proof of a COVID vaccination before flying here. But the testing requirement is seen as a much bigger barrier to entry from abroad. Since it’s gone, the US travel industry should see a surge in foreign visitors who now have less to worry about.

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“Before the pandemic, travel was one of our country’s biggest exports. Removing this requirement will allow the industry to pave the way for a broader U.S. economic and employment recovery,” Roger Doe, President and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said in a statement.

The travel/tourism industry is expecting a surge in business this summer thanks to the easing of COVID restrictions and pent-up demand, even with skyrocketing inflation for flights, lodging, car rentals and gasoline. As GOBankingRates previously reported, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said air travel demand is “off the charts” despite average fares this summer could be up to 30% higher than before the pandemic.

How much will lifting the international COVID testing requirement boost tourism business? The US Travel Association estimates that its removal could attract 5.4 million U.S. visitors and an additional $9 billion in travel over the remainder of the calendar year, according to Bloomberg. This, in turn, should give a similar lift to hotels, restaurants and tourist destinations that rely on foreign visitors for a large part of their business.

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