Man checks COVID-19 test results on mobile phone (photo via SDI Productions / Getty Images)
Travel industry leaders are calling on the government to eliminate the need for U.S. citizens traveling abroad to test upon their return.
The unceremonious lifting of the mask mandate on April 19, 2022, renewed calls for another rule that has proven prohibitive to the travel industry recovery in the U.S.–the requirement for COVID-19 testing before coming entering the country.
American Society of Travel Advisors president and CEO Zane Kerby issued a statement in support of lifting the requirement.
“The current back and forth on the mask mandate pertaining to various forms of transportation misses the mark and overshadows very real policies deterring international travel,” said Kerby. “Requiring Americans to test negative prior to returning home from abroad is the public policy that needs immediate reversal. Millions of Americans travel by air every day. Those traveling internationally risk quarantining abroad and navigating multiple foreign countries’ bureaucratic and ever-changing pandemic rules. As a result, Americans are delaying or simply canceling international trips, ensuring once again that travel will be the last industry to recover from the pandemic.”
ASTA is in favor of completely eliminating the requirement but would also advocate for at least removing the policy of those who are vaccinated.
“We support lifting the inbound testing requirement for all travelers, regardless of their vaccination status and that remains ASTA’s ultimate policy objective. However, given the bipartisan support in Congress that already exists for it, exempting vaccinated travelers from the requirement represents a logical, and achievable, first step,” said Kerby.
He also noted that the policy does not seem to have much basis in reality.
“The current policy also creates the false impression that travel outside of the U.S. invariably poses a greater COVID risk than travel within the U.S.,” said Kerby in the statement. “How else would the typical traveler understand why a flight from London to New York requires testing while a flight from New York to Los Angeles does not? To the contrary, a number of countries have vaccination rates higher than the U.S. This fact alone makes it evident that the current testing regime is not defensible on any apparent rational or scientific basis. A multitude of these forward-thinking foreign governments have already removed their inbound testing requirement, and the U.S. should do the same.”
Kerby called on the government to drop the requirement for U.S. citizens.
“Exempting the more than 218 million Americans who are fully vaccinated from the order would reflect the scientific consensus that widespread vaccination is the single most essential element of the fight against COVID-19, while allowing the travel industry’s recovery to begin in earnest,” he said.
A recent survey from Global Rescue suggests that Americans would be on board with this policy shift.
One-third of travelers (32 percent) believe the U.S. government should abolish its current policy requiring inbound international travelers to supply a negative COVID-19 test in order to return to the U.S. from abroad, at least for the fully vaccinated. An almost identical amount (34 percent) of respondents said that it should eliminate the requirement for U.S. citizens, but not for non-citizens.