This week, the travel industry took another step towards its full return to normal, albeit one that still carries some uncertainty, when a federal judge ruled on Monday ruled against the federal mask mandate, and the White House, shortly after, said it would no longer enforce it while it is under review.
On Wednesday, the Department of Justice said it would appeal the decision after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requested it do so. Still, travelers this week, in most cases, were able to shed their masks if they chose to. But, even with that change, there is room to go for the travel industry.
The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) this week emphasized that, even with the lifting of the mandate, the biggest barrier to full recovery of international travel remains—the inbound testing rule.
ASTA on Friday praised a push by a bipartisan group of 16 Members of Congress to drop the rule for vaccinated travelers, something it said would not only be consistent with the scientific consensus but would also allow “the travel industry’s recovery to begin in earnest.”
That group is led by Representative Lou Correa (D-CA) and includes names from both sides of the aisle.
“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. Requiring Americans to test negative prior to returning home from abroad is the public policy that needs immediate reversal,” ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby said in a statement.
“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.”
According to ASTA, the change is a “commonsense” change that would match ones made in other main outbound markets, including the U.K., EU, Canada, and Australia.”
“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. 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?
“A multitude of these forward-thinking foreign governments have already removed their inbound testing requirement, and the U.S. should do the same.”
“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,” Kerby said.