WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — Once again the United States is welcoming international travelers from previously banned parts of the world, including the UK, Canada, Mexico and the European Union.
For more than 18 months, international tourists to the US were banned because of the pandemic, resulting in hundreds of billions of dollars in losses in the US along with lost jobs.
Now, new rules mean adults from 33 banned countries can once again travel to the US if they are fully vaccinated. Anyone under 18 must have a negative COVID test.
“Welcoming international travelers back to the United States is phenomenal news for the travel industry and the US economy,” said Roger Dow, the CEO of US Travel.
Dow said the pandemic travel restrictions cost the US an estimated $300 billion. That’s money international tourists would have spent on airfare, hotels, dining, shopping and other travel expenses during the more than 18-month travel ban.
The lack of tourism contributed to the 1.2 million American jobs lost in the travel industry.
Things, though, are looking up, Dow said. “There’s tremendous pent-up demand of international travelers.”
Some travel experts don’t expect travel to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024, but Dow disagrees.
“I think it’s a coil spring,” he said.
Some airlines are already seeing sharp increases in demand.
“I think it’s going to come back very strongly in 2022 and back to normal in 2023,” he said.
Dow said the increasing vaccination rate in the US and vaccine requirements for international travelers should mean travel is back for good.
But one current concern is whether US airlines will have enough staff to keep up with demand ahead of the holiday season.