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On June 7, 2022, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee will hold a hearing on "Reviving Conventions & Tourism Through International Travel."
Ahead of the hearing, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) president and CEO Zane Kerby issued a statement highlighting that one of the key issues to reviving travel in the U.S. is eliminating pre-departure testing.
"As Senators gather to discuss ways to restore international travel, we want to highlight the number-one barrier to our industry's recovery - the inbound testing order. This order has little to no impact on COVID rates at home, while the economic damage it causes grows by the day," read the statement from Kerby.
"Determined travelers have and will find a way around ill-conceived systems, and the costs to citizens and those visiting the United States far outweigh the benefits. It's time for the U.S. to match our closest trading partners on this front, start managing the virus and let travel-reliant businesses recover from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic."
Kerby also highlighted that shortening the acceptable testing window made the situation worse.
"The November 2021 shortening of the testing window from 72 hours to one day prior has only exacerbated these challenges," he noted. "In fact, according to a recent survey of ASTA members, 83 percent of trip cancelations are occurring because of the U.S. COVID-19 testing requirement. At present, this is the number one cause for client trip cancelations according to travel advisors."
Additionally, Kerby pointed out that many countries have already eliminated similar requirements of travelers."A growing number of countries, including the United States' biggest trading partners and outbound travel markers, have recently moved in the direction of removing the pre-departure test requirement for the fully vaccinated, including the United Kingdom, the European Union, Canada, and Australia. Exempting fully vaccinated U.S. citizens from the order is a way to appropriately strike that balance consistent with the Administration's stated desire for 'an air travel policy that relies primarily on vaccination to advance the safe resumption of international air travel to the United States," Kerby said.
In planned testimony to the committee, Tori Emerson Barnes, U.S. Travel Association executive vice president, public affairs and policy, also raised the issue of pre-departure testing.
"I wish I could say everything is back to normal now, but we're still not where we need to be," said Emerson Barnes in her remarks, also noting that other countries have done away with COVID testing and entry requirements.
"We think the U.S. needs to follow the science the rest of the world is following. People have a lot of options about where to travel these days, and this unnecessary red tape is hurting our country's recovery," she said.
The Global Business Travel Association similarly noted that required testing was dampening the return of international travelers to the U.S.
Ralph Cutié, director and CEO of the Miami International Airport, agreed, referencing the letter that more than 260 members of the travel industry sent to the White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator in May 2022.
Cutié said that the U.S. should "immediately remove the pre-departure testing requirement for all fully vaccinated inbound international arrivals."
He also noted that the mask mandate should remain lifted, that the U.S. should end "avoid travel" advisories and work with other countries to normalize travel conditions and entry requirements.
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