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Setting an optimistic tone for the year ahead, the U.S. Travel Association — exactly one week following President Biden’s inauguration — shared its long-term policy platform (PDF) and recommendations for the Biden administration on rebuilding the nation’s tourism industry.
The measures that the travel trade group propose to revive tourism — which it presented at its 2021 State of the Travel Industry, calling it “travel’s next chapter” — fall under five principal pillars: economic recovery, infrastructure and mobility, global competitiveness, reimagining air travel and improving travel facilitation.
The most important recommended steps include, among others:
- Policies and incentives to safely bring back meetings and events;
- A federal government investment of $550 billion in highways, transit systems, passenger rail and airports over the next five years;
- The establishment of a new Assistant Secretary for Travel and Tourism within the Department of Commerce;
- Continued support and protection of Brand USA, so it can keep doing its important work of promoting the United States to visitors around the world;
- The expansion of biometric exit systems currently operating at 20 airports and seven seaports; and
- The consolidation of TSA Precheck, Global Entry, Sentri and Nexus programs.
“This is the opportunity for a new Congress and new administration to work with our industry to revive our nation’s economy, restore millions of lost jobs, and bring Americans together again,” said Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association CEO, pointing to the trade group’s hard-fought and encouraging wins of 2020, such as the inclusion of destination marketing organizations within the Paycheck Protection Program last month.
Calling on the Biden administration to remove all international travel bans and quarantines, Dow noted that the latter moves would be necessary to reach “a national goal to welcome 116 million annual visitors to the U.S. by 2028 and reestablish the United States as the most welcoming country in the world.”
Earlier this week, the Biden administration had said it was “actively looking” into the possibility of mandating Covid testing for domestic air travel, a measure which the USTA said it strongly opposes and that it has expressed its stance to the Biden administration, and plans to follow up in writing.
“Based on January 2021 data, we believe that a testing requirement for domestic air travel would necessitate a 42 percent increase in daily testing capacity nationwide,” Tori Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy at the U.S. Travel Association, said during a follow up media question and answer session. “While we are supportive of the requirement to test folks coming in internationally, we think that the domestic approach would be very dangerous [.]”
Barnes pointed to the high cost and low availability of testing, which would make it difficult for travelers. Asymptomatic individuals would also find it almost impossible to get a test in some states.
Covid testing mandates aside, Dow said the U.S. Travel Association is projecting 33 million international visitors this year, while noting the single largest obstacle to reaching this goal.
“We’re not going to open up travel until we have consistent policies,” Dow said. “This inconsistency from country to country and also from state to state is going to be one of the inhibitors.”