U.S. gives vaccinated foreign travelers green light to enter the country

Photo (c) zeynep boğoçlu - Getty Images

After months of asking for some relief, the travel industry finally gets its wish

The U.S. is throwing its doors wide open to fully vaccinated foreign travelers. The White House announced that it will be easing restrictions for both international air travel and land travel effective November 8.

"This announcement and date applies to both international air travel and land travel. This policy is guided by public health, stringent, and consistent,” said White House assistant press secretary in a Twitter post.

The Biden administration had hinted at this shift in late September when it relaxed restrictions on travel to Great Britain. That resulted in a surge in bookings for transatlantic flights, with Virgin Atlantic reporting a 91% increase.

Travel industry breathes sigh of relief

The move couldn’t have come at a better time. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), air travelers were becoming increasingly frustrated with the COVID-19 travel restrictions. Nearly 70% of the respondents in a survey commissioned by IATA felt that most country borders should be opened now -- up 12% from a June 2021, survey.

The whole travel industry has to be happy too. It tried to reason with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier this year, claiming that the agency’s guidelines that fully vaccinated people should continue to avoid travel were unreasonable. 

“U.S. Travel has long urged a reopening of the U.S. land borders, and we applaud the Biden administration’s plan to ease entry restrictions for vaccinated visitors. This action will bring a welcome surge in travel from our two top source markets of inbound travel,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement emailed to ConsumerAffairs. 

Dow said that the declines in international visitation since the start of the pandemic have cost the U.S. dearly. According to his organization’s data, there was upwards of $250 billion lost in export income and more than a million U.S. jobs. He said the closed Canadian and Mexican land borders alone cost the U.S. economy nearly $700 million per month.

“The full reopening of international travel to the United States to fully vaccinated individuals is overdue and will provide a jolt to the U.S. economy, travel businesses large and small, and to destinations across America,” Dow stated.

What kind of deals will international travelers find when they come?

After car rental prices spiked earlier this year, one industry analyst says they’re back to normal again. That’s due to there being less demand since the summer travel season is over and children being, for the most part, back in school.

Scott Keyes at Scott’s Cheap Flights told ConsumerAffairs that a recent search for car rental prices included daily deals in Denver and Nashville for $43, $32 in Honolulu, $26 in Los Angeles, and $11 in Miami. 

Keyes said that even Thanksgiving rates were relatively cheap. Christmas and New Year’s were generally double or triple the price, but he said that happens every year.

Hotels, however, are a different story. In comments to TravelPulse, Twiddy & Company CEO Ross Twiddy said reservations in August were up 165% for the Christmas and New Year periods when compared to 2017-2019 averages. 

Naturally, the laws of supply and demand are causing hotel prices to climb. A spokesperson for Priceline told CNBC that the average daily rate at hotels has increased by 14% over the pre-pandemic 2019 holiday season, and they expect that the increased demand will cause prices to continue to scale upward.

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