The USA is to ease travel restrictions to allow foreign fully vaccinated passengers to enter the country starting in November.
Vaccinated passengers will be able to travel to the US from the EU and UK from November onwards, the Biden administration announced 20 September, marking the end of the 18-month blanket ban on travel.
White House Covid-19 coordinator Jeff Zients announced the “new international air travel system”, saying the system was “based on individuals rather than a country based approach, so it’s a stronger system”. He said vaccines were the “best tool we have in our arsenal” to keep people safe.
The new rules don’t affect land travel and restrictions on overland travel to the US from Mexico and Canada is still in place.
Under the current policy, only American citizens, their immediate families, green card holders and those with national interest exemptions can travel to the US if they have been in the UK or EU in the previous 14 days.
Julia Simpson (pictured), president & CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) welcomed the US move: “The prospect of the US lifting travel restrictions to restore transatlantic travel between the UK and US is welcome news – not just for hard-pressed airlines but for the wider Travel & Tourism sector, which has been decimated by Covid-19.
“It will finally enable families to reunite, business travellers to resume face-to-face meetings and for Travel & Tourism to return for Brits looking to travel to America.
“The UK alone represents 8% of all inbound travel to the US, accounting for US$40m per day to the nation’s economy.
“WTTC has long-been calling for the US.to reopen and our research shows that by opening its borders to key markets such as the UK, it will pump US$198m back into the US economy every single day.
“WTTC strongly advocates for fully vaccinated travellers to be able to travel freely and safely, and for unvaccinated travellers to be able to do so with testing, alongside enhanced health and safety protocols.”
Airline stocks rose following the news, although many caveats remain, for example over what vaccines will be acceptable and whether children will need to have vaccine passports.
Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic commented: “The US Government’s announcement that fully vaccinated UK visitors will be able to enter the US from November is a major milestone to the reopening of travel at scale, allowing consumers and businesses to book travel to the US with confidence.
“As the UK forges its recovery from the pandemic, the reopening of the transatlantic corridor and the lifting of Presidential Order 212F acknowledges the great progress both nations have made in rolling out successful vaccine programmes. The UK will now be able to strengthen ties with our most important economic partner, the US, boosting trade and tourism as well as reuniting friends, families and business colleagues. We are thankful to the UK Government, the Biden administration and our industry partners for their collaboration.”
And Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, added: “The re-opening of international travel between the UK and the US is long overdue. Today’s reported announcement from President Biden gives the whole travel industry light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
“We have been calling for this for many months. Waiting until November harms businesses on both sides of the Atlantic. Once travel between the two countries resumes, it must be on a permanent basis.”