U.S. drops COVID testing mandate for international visitors

In a significant travel-related decision and a big win for hoteliers in the U.S., the Biden administration will lift its requirement for air travelers to test negative for COVID-19 before entering the U.S. The move, by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is expected to be implemented from Sunday midnight.

According to an analysis, repealing the pre-departure testing mandate is expected to bring in 5.4 million additional visitors to the U.S. and US$9 billion more in travel spending through the rest of the year, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

The CDC will reassess its decision within 90 days and could reinstate the requirement if a troubling variant of COVID grows in intensity.

The travel restriction was put in place by the Trump administration in January 2021 and was further tightened by the Biden administration, which mandated inbound travelers, including U.S. citizens, to show proof of a negative COVID test a day before traveling to the country. Only those entering from land border crossings were exempt from the norm.

The travel industry had long been demanding the administration scrap the requirement, stating it was impacting demand for international trips and hurting the already fragile economy.

The decision was welcomed by the travel industry, who felt the previous policy needed to be changed months ago. The decision marks a “huge step forward” for the recovery of inbound air travel and the return of international travel to the country, said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow.

Calling it a “significant win” for hotels and the overall travel sector, American Hotel & Lodging Association President and CEO Chip Rogers said the previous policy had a chilling effect on inbound international travel to the U.S.

“Lifting the requirement will make travel easier, facilitating more international visitors and helping hotels continue on the road to recovery, especially as we approach peak travel season this summer,” Rogers said.

Dow further stated, “The Biden administration is to be commended for this action, which will welcome back visitors from around the world and accelerate the recovery of the U.S. travel industry. More than half of international travelers in a recent survey pointed to the pre-departure testing requirement as a major deterrent for inbound travel to the U.S. The lifting of this requirement will enable the industry to lead the way toward a broader U.S. economic and jobs recovery.”