U.S. Travel Applauds Lifting of COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate for International Visitors

May 9, 2023

The U.S. Travel Association, which has been diligently advocating for the end of COVID-19 restrictions along with several other tourism and events industry entities, overwhelmingly welcomed the Biden-Harris Administration’s announcement May 1 to repeal the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for inbound travel to the U.S.

“[The] action to lift the vaccine requirement eases a significant entry barrier for many global travelers, moving our industry and country forward, said Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of U.S. Travel.

However, he added, the return of international visitors should be as efficient and secure as possible.

“The federal government must ensure U.S. airports and other ports of entry are appropriately staffed with Customs and Border Protection officers to meet the growing demand for entry,” Freeman said.

The COVID-19 vaccine requirement for international air travelers, in addition to federal employees and federal contractors will end May 11, the same day the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration is scheduled to expire.

“We put in place vaccination requirements for certain international travelers to slow the spread of new variants entering the country and to allow our healthcare system time to effectively manage access to care if faced with an increase in cases and hospitalizations,” the White House said in a statement. “While vaccination remains one of the most important tools in advancing the health and safety, we are now in a different phase of our response when these measures are no longer necessary.”

The vaccine mandate for inbound visitors has been in place since November 2021, when the Biden-Harris Administration lifted the 18-month ban on international travelers, paving the way for a massive boost to the travel and events industry’s recovery.

At the time, Hervé Sedky, board chair of the Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance (ECA) and president and CEO of Emerald, called the ending of the travel ban a win-win for all stakeholders as the industry returned to in-person gatherings.

“International exhibitors and attendees are critical to the success of the thousands of conferences and trade shows held in the U.S. each year,” Sedkey said. 

After several months, however, it became apparent that the vaccine requirement for international travelers was another impediment for leisure travelers and event attendees from other countries, and numerous advocacy efforts began in order to persuade the U.S. government to repeal the mandate.

One of the latest initiatives was the introduction of a bill early this year to end the vaccine requirement immediately.

“We have long supported the removal of this requirement and see no reason to wait until the May expiration of the public health emergency,” said Tori Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy for U.S. Travel. “Every day this policy remains in place encourages some travelers to avoid the U.S., costing us valuable visitor spending and delaying our efforts to reignite inbound travel.”

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