After unrelenting pressure from travel industry organizations and trade groups, the Biden administration on Friday decided to lift the inbound testing mandate that has been in place since January 2021. The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) has been a key proponent of removing the virus testing mandate, which many felt was an impediment to international travel for passengers who feared being stranded overseas after a positive test. The mandate’s most recent iteration required testing within 24 hours of departure for the United States.
ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby issued the following statement:
“We are thrilled to see the end of the CDC’s inbound testing rule, which has been standing in the way of our industry’s recovery for too long. Since the start of the year, ASTA has been engaged in a multi-layered advocacy campaign to get to this point, including direct lobbying of Congress and Administration officials, grassroots action, and pressure through national and local media. We commend the Biden Administration for taking this long-overdue step and thank ASTA members across the country for their hard work in helping get this across the finish line. While plenty of challenges remain in terms of rebuilding the travel agency business, today is a great day.”
Reaction across the travel industry was immediate and positive. Caitlan Etchevers, the Senior Business Development Manager, Global Travel Trade at Visit Lauderdale, said “We here at Visit Lauderdale are ecstatic to receive this news. Although we foresee somewhat of a dip in domestic travelers coming to our beautiful destination, we know that it is time for the return of all of our global citizens and we eagerly anticipate the influx of our international visitors. Visit Lauderdale is ready for them! We have been preparing for their return and can’t wait to welcome everyone under the sun to Greater Fort Lauderdale.”
Alex Sharpe, President and CEO of Signature Travel Network, expressed relief at the relaxed mandate. “The dropping of required testing for returning Americans is huge and welcomed development. This will most certainly have a positive impact on near and longer term bookings as customers feel confident they won’t get “stuck” away from home.”
Toni Day, President, Toni Tours, in Levittown, New York, had the following reaction. “It is a long-overdue and welcome rescinded inbound testing rule. I’m happy to see our emails and calls to the Whitehouse and Congress have paid off. It is a big win for our industry. Wish it happened sooner as last week I had to leave 10 passengers from my group of 18 in Quito for 3-days after they tested positive 2-hours before their flight back to the US. All of them were either asymptomatic or mild cold symptoms. All were vaccinated and boosted. Two of them rebooked their flights to fly into Toronto and then drive across the border. There were so many loopholes and inconsistencies in the inbound testing policy. Our jobs as travel advisors just became a lot less stressful with the lifting of this order. Those travelers who wanted to put off foreign trips because of the testing rule can now travel worry-free from getting stranded overseas.
The C.D.C. is expected to re-evaluate the policy in 90 days pending any new concerns about an uptick in cases or a new variant.