The United States will no longer require inbound international travelers to test negative for COVID-19 before entering, or re-entering, the U.S. That is according to multiple reports citing administration officials on Friday morning.
The White House is expected to make an official announcement Friday afternoon, but, according to the reports, the testing requirement will end as of Sunday at 12:01 a.m.
The news brings an end to one of the last remaining COVID-19 era travel restrictions that burdened the U.S. travel industry. The requirement had been in place since January 2021 and, even with other restrictions ending, had remained a major hurdle for Americans traveling abroad. That is despite other major countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada, all eliminating similar requirements.
The requirement was largely seen as a major drag on the travel industry’s recovery, muting its way back from the pandemic lows despite overwhelming consumer demand for travel. International travel, which is typically the most profitable segment for the travel agency community, was hurt the most.
Major voices across the travel industry continued to push for the removal of the requirement over the past few months, with some calls going back to January. In May, the largest, and most comprehensive, group of travel industry voices joined together to push the White House to remove the requirement.
“We encourage the Administration to expeditiously terminate the inbound testing requirement for vaccinated air travelers,” the letter, which came from major airlines such as Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, the largest hotel companies in the world including BWH, Hyatt, Marriott, and Wyndham, and others like Disney Parks, MGM Resorts, Universal Parks and Resorts, said.
The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) has also worked with lawmakers to try and find a solution to the issue, and make it known how its members were impacted by the requirement.
Travel advisors on the impact
Travel advisors and travel agency owners speaking to TMR recently said that, even with the testing requirement being wound down abroad, the return test had proved to be a sticky point for their clients.
Keisha Adriano, the team lead manager and luxury travel advisor at Washington D.C.’s Travelwise International, told TMR this week that “the inbound testing requirements continue to be one of the major deterrents for travelers and the uncertainty has affected travel demand.”
“People are already anxious about rising costs and inflation, and now are second-guessing trips, fearing that it may cost them more than first expected. Revenge travel is here, but really targeted to households who can absorb additional expenses,” she said.
Jill Labare, vice president of business development with Oasis Travel Network, also told TMR that clients were hesitant to leave the U.S. by plane because of “fear they can’t return as planned or need to incur additional expenses” and that from her perspective, the testing requirements are nonsensical.
The requirement “is inhibiting travel and is negatively impacting the travel advisors who are primarily small business owners. It is also creating a significant amount of stress for the travel advisors in addition to extra work when they do have clients willing to travel by air outside of the U.S.,” Labare added.