This is the most significant international travel news since the start of pandemic restrictions being put in place. Watch travel bookings go crazy — and the share prices of travel companies.
The Biden administration announced Monday that the United States is reopening to fully vaccinated air travelers from anywhere around the world starting in early November, ending a ban that has been in place for 18 months.
The White House’s complete turnaround on restrictions is a huge boost to the travel industry with tens of thousands of global travelers unable to travel to the United States from the earliest days of the pandemic.
The U.S. Travel Association trade group previously estimated that the restrictions, if they ran to the end of the year, would cost the U.S. economy $325 billion in total losses and 1.1 million jobs.
Shares of travel company stocks shot up on the news, like British Airways parent IAG, whose stock price rose 11 percent on Monday.
The White House said it will admit fully vaccinated air travelers from the 26 countries that comprise the Schengen area in Europe as well as Britain, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil. The existing policy had barred entry by non-U.S. citizens who have been in any of those countries prior to 14 days of their arrival in the U.S.
It’s uncertain when exactly in November the U.S. will reopen as White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients only said “early November” regarding a date for reopening. The White House added that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will determine which vaccines will qualify. International visitors will need to present proof of vaccination before traveling and will not be required to quarantine upon arrival as well as take a PCR test three days prior to flying to the U.S.
However, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a press briefing on Monday that land border restrictions with Canada and Mexico have been extended through October 21 and offered no prediction to when they will be lifted.
Despite restrictions being eased for international travelers, Zients said that unvaccinated U.S. citizens returning home will have to clear stricter testing requirements, a point Psaki reiterated during the press briefing. Returning travelers will need to test negative for Covid-19 one day before traveling to the U.S. and show proof of buying a test to take after their arrival.
The Financial Times reported that the lifting of the restrictions is part of a wider effort by the White House to bring more uniformity to the patchwork that has been international travel rules. This is a huge boost to the U.S. and indeed global travel sector, both leisure, business travel and the events sector.
Numerous executives in the travel industry celebrated the Biden’s administration announcement, including U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “This is a major turning point in the management of the virus and will accelerate the recovery of the millions of travel-related jobs that have been lost due to international travel restrictions,” Dow said.
The current policy holds that only U.S. citizens, their immediate families, green card holders and can travel to the U.S. if they have been in the UK or EU in the previous 14 days.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed his support for the change in U.S. policy. “It’s a fantastic boost for business and trade, and great that family and friends on both sides of the pond can be reunited again,” he said on Twitter.
UPDATED: This story was updated to include comments from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, White House Covid-19 Coordinator Jeff Zients, U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow, and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
— Editor-in-Chief Tom Lowry and Reuters contributed to this report.
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