US reopens borders to vaccinated travelers after 20 months

by mcardinal

Matt Bush, FISM News


Travelers and tourists from 33 countries that have been barred from entering the United States due to COVID-19 concerns  were allowed to enter the country for the first time today in over 20 months.

The travel ban, enacted by President Trump and upheld by the Biden administration, has halted international tourism and kept families and friends separated for almost two years. Travel bans initially started with China early in 2020, and as the virus continued to spread, so did the travel ban. 

When the restrictions expanded, any non-American citizen who had been in the U.K., most of the European Union, Brazil, China, South Africa, and many other countries were barred entrance to American soil. During this time, some travelers would enter a country not under the U.S. ban, quarantine in that country for two weeks, and then travel on to America as a means to avert the ban.

Under the new rules air travelers will now be required to show proof of vaccination as well as produce a negative COVID test within three days of travel. These travelers, however, will not be asked to quarantine once they arrive to the U.S. Those traveling by land from Mexico or Canada will not be asked for a negative test, but may be asked to show proof of vaccination if a border patrol agent deems it necessary.

The U.S. lagged behind many other countries across the world in terms of opening up air travel, and American allies have welcomed the move. Not only were international tourists barred, but so were those with business interests and family members living in America. 

A Reuters article states, “Airlines for America, an industry trade group, said that through late August, international air travel was down 43% from pre-pandemic levels.” While domestic travel is approaching pre-pandemic levels, international travel continues to lag behind.

For the American tourism industry alone, these new rules could open up streams of income that have long been shut down. Prior to the pandemic, there were approximately 79.6 million international visitors to the US, with 74% of those traveling for personal rather than business reasons, according to data compiled by Condor Ferries. Approximately 15.7 million American jobs are supported by the tourism industry, and it is vital for the national economy that these jobs be funded once again.

Industry executives expect for the reopening of international travel to experience difficulties at first. According to Delta’s chief executive, Ed Bastian, “It’s going to be a bit sloppy at first. I can assure you, there will be lines unfortunately.” In addition to issues resulting from the uptick in travelers, airlines like  Southwest and American Airlines have continued to deal with delays and cancelations because of worker vaccine mandates. International travelers can expect to experience similar issues.

The combination of 20 months of restricted international travel and fewer employees due to vaccine mandates will assuredly make travel more difficult in general. However, hopefully it is another sign that maybe, just maybe, things can get back to some resemblance of the way they were before the pandemic.