BA Blaney, CNN
As the summer heats up, the United States is raising its longstanding requirement for all travelers entering the country to submit a negative Covid-19 test.
The news brings a collective sigh of relief and a potential flood of new international travelers to the already chaotic summer season.
For many American travelers, this development means not worrying about the hassle of testing before returning to the United States, or the cost and burden of staying abroad to quarantine and waiting for a negative test result if a pre-travel test is positive. .
In the meantime, international travelers heading to the US can plan their trips without fear of having to cancel due to a positive test. Most non-US citizens must still be vaccinated to travel to the country.
The turbulent travel industry is encouraging the removal of the barrier to the two sets of potential customers.
The rule, which was put in place in January 2021, will expire for US-bound travelers starting at 12:01 a.m. ET on Sunday, June 12. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it will reassess the rule if Covid-19 changes the situation.
The development comes after heavy pressure from the travel and tourism trade groups as the industry continues to recover after more than two years of downturn caused by the pandemic.
For several months, these organizations have been calling for the test requirement to be scrapped, as has been the case in Canada and the United Kingdom since March, as well as most countries in Europe. Following Friday’s news that the rule was ending, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) and the American Travel Association (USTA) were among the groups to issue statements praising the move.
In a statement released Friday, AHLA President and CEO Chip Rogers called it a “big win for hotels and the broader travel industry,” calling the requirement outdated and creating a “scary impact” on inbound international travel.
Meanwhile, Roger Dow, USTA President and CEO, confirmed that ending testing requirements could bring an additional 5.4 million visitors to the United States and an additional $9 billion in travel spending through the end of 2022.
2022 Three seasons in one season
Although many in the travel industry support the development, some experts warn of increased demand, reduced availability and higher prices as a result, exacerbating an already chaotic travel landscape both in the United States and abroad.
“Europe will be flooded with American travelers,” Mina Agnus, president of Travelive, a travel agency specializing in Greece with offices in Athens and Delray Beach, Florida, told CNN Travel by email.
Speaking with travel advisors across the United States, the consensus is that 2022 is ‘three seasons in one.’ Availability of hotels is very tight and local services [such as] Guides, drivers, air transport, ferries, railways and restaurants will all be at capacity this season.”
It’s an assessment that the tourism industry, and especially the hotel sector, is happy to see.
Chitra Stern, chief executive of Martinhal Resorts, a family-centric luxury hotel group with properties across Portugal, said US testing restrictions have “hampered many travelers” from planning trips abroad, especially families, which are the brand’s core demographics.
Since a negative test is no longer required to return to the US, Stern expects to see an increase in guests staying in the US – the top market for Martinhal properties in downtown Lisbon – booking stays in Portugal and all over Europe.
“We now expect to welcome the many Americans who book last-minute summer trips and long city vacations over the weekend,” Stern said.
Laura Citron, chief executive of Visit London, expects to see a similar jump in American travelers, who make up London’s largest inbound tourism market, heading to the capital this summer.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have seen a rise in bookings from the US to London when travel restrictions were lifted,” Citron told CNN Travel via text message, adding that passengers on flights from the US to London had nearly reached pre-pandemic levels during a week of festivities. Platinum Jubilee.
According to Agnos, travelers with the heart on a Greek vacation this summer should start planning their trips right away, and expect to face the crowds. If Agnos’ activity is any indication, the Mediterranean country is preparing to see a tourism surplus in the coming months that, by and large, June is “virtually sold out” of Travelive guides, transport vehicles and even yachts, Agnos said.
It’s a first in the airline’s 21-year history.
“Hotel availability is a major concern, even in areas like Athens and Mykonos, where stock has always been adequate,” Agnos explained. “It’s the first time we’ve had to stop doing business due to lack of availability.”
“An increase in demand across the Atlantic”
It remains to be seen exactly how much the lifted restrictions will bump up air travel costs. But it is safe to say that with the inevitable increase in demand, passengers should consider booking flights as early as possible to get the best deal.
According to Scott Keys, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, a website to track airfares and reservations, the increased demand could expand airlines and services to popular destinations like Europe.
“I expect to see increased demand for transatlantic travel and airlines respond by adding more flights to capture new segments of travelers eager to travel between the US and Europe,” Keys said.
It’s definitely a matter of supply and demand, Kyle Potter, editor of the airline deal and travel website Thrifty Traveler, told CNN Travel.
“Many domestic prices are higher than ever, and that’s because demand is the highest,” Potter said. “As more people look to Europe and beyond, we can easily see airlines raising fares, especially during the height of the summer season.”
Potter recommends traveling in mid to late August and early September. “We still found some great deals for Europe like $500 (or less) direct fares to London or Rome in that time period after the transatlantic rush had subsided a bit.”
Travelers to high-volume destinations also should pack some extra patience in light of the staff shortages that the travel industry is still dealing with across the hotel, restaurant and airline sectors.
“I have concerns about providing the service this year,” Agnus said. “Recruiting is still very difficult, so service levels may not be comparable to pre-Covid levels, particularly in luxury travel services.”
Kathy Hurst, travel director at Black Pearl Luxury Services, a dedicated travel company in Salt Lake City, said she was “delighted” about the testing requirement that had been lifted, but she also expected some frustration from customers who waited to book international travel until testing was no longer necessary. It may now face limited availability.
“Now that they are ready to book, they are likely to be disappointed by the lack of stock with tours, hotels, cruises and airfares,” Hurst said by email. “Currently, we are finding that many hotels, airlines, tour operators and cruises are having difficulty operating due to staff shortages.”
Like Agnos, Hearst noted a significant rise in inquiries and reservations in European hotspots including France, Greece, Italy and the United Kingdom. Destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico are also “very popular,” she said, and demand has been so high that some of her colleagues have turned down requests to book customized flights.
“Planning these itineraries is so much fun, but it is so time consuming and many consultants are turning down new clients because we are overwhelmed with requests,” Hurst said.
“People have waited two years to travel, pent-up demand is a good problem on our part, but it also makes the days very long and stressful,” she said. “I hope things will settle down in the coming months, but travel is hotter at the moment than I’ve seen in over 20 years in the industry.”
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CNN’s Marnie Hunter and Forrest Brown contributed to this report.