Mon. Mar 20th, 2023

After almost 500 days, the Biden Administration ended pre-flight COVID testing for passengers heading to the U.S. Previously, both U.S. and international passengers, vaccinated and unvaccinated, needed to test negative for COVID-19 with 24 hours of a flight to the U.S.

Travelers were excited. As @AFARmedia put it, “No more worrying about scrambling for a test or getting stuck abroad.”

But after so long, many were skeptical. So many questioned whether the end of testing was real that fact-checker VERIFY researched it. VERIFY found that as of June 12, yes, the CDC has lifted COVID-19 testing requirements for international air travel.

On Twitter, potential passengers celebrated with often profane joy. Twitter user @1edsaint wrote on June 12, “no more covid test’s to get back in the US thank g-d.” @noisyrandy, a Canadian from Saskatchewan, exulted “No more Covid test to go to Disney in July.”

@KellyKatharin, a keto coach from Jamaica, said in all caps, “NO MORE NEED FOR A COVID TEST TO ENTER THE USA!!!” @DJSchemes seemed equally excited, “No more covid test to come back into America?!? Sh*t bout to get real.”

Will on-line excitement transfer into actual tourist dollars, with Europeans racing to America, and Americans to Europe? According to MMGY Travel Intelligence, the answer from both sides of The Pond is simple: Yes, we will fly!

An MMGY study surveyed 774 Americans and 436 Britons on June 12, 2022, immediately after the test requirement was lifted. The aim was to determine if ending COVID testing would impact their travel intentions.

The study revealed that 36% of Americans are more likely to travel outside the U.S. within the next six months with the testing requirement gone.

U.K. respondents were even more emphatic. More than half of British respondents (52%) said they are more likely to travel to the U.S. because the COVID-19 testing requirement has been removed.

While 44% of Americans said the news does not impact their intent to travel internationally at all, 20% did say they are less likely to travel internationally in the next six months without the testing requirement in place. Only 11% of Brits said the end of the testing requirement would make them less likely to book a trip to the U.S.

“The travel industry has been lobbying for this restriction to be lifted for months because the scientific data did not support a need for it,” said MMGY Global CEO Clayton Reid. “This is now the removal of an important barrier for continuing international travel recovery, both inbound and outbound U.S. “

But the end of COVID testing is only part of the post-pandemic puzzle in returning international travel to previous levels.

The MMGY study found that 59% of Americans said the cost of international airfare and lodging will impact their decision to travel. Another 47% said concerns about their personal safety related to violence and unrest will impact their decision to travel internationally.

Of the British respondents, 49% said the cost of airfare and lodging will impact their decision to travel to America, and 39% said personal safety concerns will impact their decisions. Data shows the crime rate in major U.S. cities is up over 30% since 2019.

Still, even the gamblers are coming. The American Gaming Association (AGA) says the US is now on an “equal footing” with other countries as pre-flight Covid testing is scrapped for inbound air passengers. AGA President and CEO Bill Miller said, “By welcoming back international business and leisure travelers, the American gaming industry and our nation’s hospitality sector can fully recover.”

“I’m glad CDC suspended the burdensome coronavirus testing requirement for international travelers, and I’ll continue to do all I can to support the strong recovery of our hospitality industry,” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., said. Nevada, with travel and gaming destinations Las Vegas and Reno/Tahoe, pines for the return of international tourism.

Bill Miller added, “We must not forget that more can still be done to return tourism to pre-pandemic levels. We ask the State Department to continue their work to speed up international visa processing time by investing in additional staff and allowing virtual interviews.”

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