U.S. allows vaccinated foreign travellers to enter

 Thursday, November 11, 2021 


The United States reopened its borders for vaccinated foreign travellers on Monday, ending more than 18 months of restrictions on international travel that separated families and cost the global travel industry hundreds of billions of dollars in tourism revenue.

Monday was a day for grandparents to hold their grandchildren for the first time, for couples who had to make do with virtual interactions for almost 18 months to kiss and for families toting balloons, bouquets and welcome signs to gather eagerly in airport waiting areas.

Before dawn on Monday, thousands of excited passengers flocked into Heathrow Airport for the first flights to the United States out of London.

In New York alone, the absence of tourists in 2020 resulted in a loss of $60 billion in revenue and wiped out 89,000 jobs across retail, arts, culture, hotels and transportation, the state comptroller found.

Though travellers from abroad account for just one-fifth of the city’s visitors, they generate 50 percent of the city’s tourism spending, according to NYC & Company, the city’s tourism promotion agency.

Under the new rules, fully vaccinated travelers are allowed to enter the United States if they can show proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test taken within three days before departure.

Unvaccinated Americans and children under 18 are exempt from the requirement, but must take a coronavirus test within 24 hours of travel.

While the new entry requirements ease travel for vaccinated travelers, they restrict people who were previously permitted to visit the United States, including unvaccinated travelers from Japan, Singapore, Mexico and other countries.

Those who have received vaccines that have not been approved by the World Health Organization for emergency use, like the Russian Sputnik V, will also not be permitted to enter.

The extended ban on travel from 33 countries- including European Union members, China, Iran and India- decimated the U.S. economy’s tourism sector and resulted in losses of nearly $300 billion in visitor spending and more than 1 million American jobs, according to the U.S. Travel Association, an industry group.

The reopening gave those in tourism-dependent industries a sense of hope.

The chef Daniel Boulud, who owns several restaurants in New York City, said customers from overseas had started to call for reservations or to get placed on a waiting list before the ban officially lifted.

Few sectors of New York City’s economy lean more heavily on foreign tourists for revenue than the arts, and the city’s cultural institutions are more than eager for them to return.

Hotels across the country, particularly those in cities, also felt the impact of the reopening.

Hyatt, the hotel group, said that approximately 50 percent of its bookings by international travelers to the United States for the week of Nov. 8 came after the opening date was announced in mid-October, with travelers flocking to top cities like Los Angeles, New York and Miami.

The JW Marriott in Downtown Los Angeles saw a 17.7 percent increase in international bookings over the last week compared to the previous month.

The city of Los Angeles is projecting an additional 1 million visitors and $1 billion in revenue as a result of the country reopening to vaccinated international visitors.

There had been concerns about long lines at the airports given the additional paperwork required to fly.

At Heathrow, long lines quickly formed at check-in counters as passengers fumbled through their phones and printed-out documents, though there were no major delays.

Now that pandemic travel restrictions have been lifted, thousands are already on their way to Florida, Arizona and California, among other warm destinations, with campers and boats in tow.

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