U.S. airlines are calling on the Biden administration to end pre-departure COVID-19 testing rules for international air passengers, as new figures reveal they significantly impact the likelihood of travelers from key European and Asian markets to visit the United States.
The 16-month-old rule—which has already been dumped by Britain, Germany, Canada, and many other countries for vaccinated travelers—requires nearly all international air passengers with some exceptions to test negative for COVID-19 before entering the country.
But this rule makes around 57 percent of international travelers surveyed less likely to travel to the United States due to the risks associated with pre-departure testing, according to a survey by Morning Consult for the U.S. Travel Association (pdf). This includes 16 percent who said it makes them much less likely to do so.
The data comes from an equal share of respondents from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, and India.
Key findings of the survey indicated that more than half of international travelers (54 percent) cited the uncertainty of potentially having to cancel a trip due to the U.S. pre-departure testing rules as having a big impact on their likelihood to visit the United States. This included one in five who indicated the risk of having to cancel would have a major impact.
On the other hand, if pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated adults were lifted, around 46 percent of those surveyed indicated they would be more likely to visit the United States—nearly four times the share that say they would be less likely if the requirement ended (12 percent).
U.S. airline executives have said Americans are not traveling abroad because of concerns they will be stranded in a foreign country if they test positive for COVID-19 following pre-departure testing.
Industry group Airlines for American said Friday that a survey of its carriers estimated that dropping the rules would increase international passengers by 4.3 million and add $1.7 billion in incremental revenue, Reuters reported.
This could result in an incremental 1.075 million foreign visitors and $2.1 billion in visitor spending.
Long haul international air travel has not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels, according to updated data on the impact from COVID-19 released May 12 by Airlines for America (pdf).
The pre-departure testing rule won’t “be there forever,” according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
To remove it will “require a level of confidence” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that “relaxing it would not harm the progress that we’ve made against the virus,” Buttigieg told an audience in Chicago, Crain’s Chicago Business reported May 12.
The Epoch Times reached out to the CDC for comment.
Britain’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told reporters in Washington on May 12 that lifting the requirement has delivered a boost to the British economy without impacting COVID-19 case numbers.
“It works to get rid of it. It’s been a massive boost for our tourism, travel industry,” Shapps said, Reuters reported.
Shapps said he thinks U.S. officials “realize that it needs to go,” adding that believes the rules will be lifted “by the summer.”