Why It's Time for the U.S. to Reopen to International Travel

It’s been nearly 18 months since the COVID-19 pandemic first upended the world and changed the way we travel. In that time, significant advancements have been made to reconnect communities and restart business around the world, including the record development of multiple, highly effective vaccines and the implementation of wide-scale testing.

Yet even as international borders reopen to vaccinated travelers, the U.S. has retained much of its original travel restrictions for visitors from abroad. While the interests of public health should always remain the focus, the latest scientific findings and border reopenings demonstrate why it’s imperative that the U.S. adjust its travel policies to match. This is one of the reasons why Direct Travel has joined forces with other Travel Management Companies (TMCs) as part of the Travel Management Coalition. Below we share the latest update and make the case for why it's time to reopen the borders to international travel.

Follow the Science

The current travel restrictions enacted by the U.S. date back to the beginning of the pandemic, but as COVID waves have grown and subsided, the science has evolved with it. For instance, we now know that COVID-19 tends to spread best indoors in communities engaging in close contact with another, such as a family household. In contrast, most business travelers are traveling in highly sterilized and controlled spaces, engaging in limited interactions with those around them.

Of course, the greatest advancement in scientific understanding and COVID-19 prevention has been the increasingly adopted vaccines. With high efficacy rates and most countries offering them at no cost to their citizens, vaccines are the simplest way to protect travelers. In fact, a recent CDC study found that those who are not vaccinated are 29 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than their vaccinated peers are.

Consequently, allowing in vaccinated and/or COVID-tested international travelers as many countries have chosen to do, actually poses less risk than our current model, which does not restrict domestic travel conducted by unvaccinated Americans. Take for example countries like Canada or the United Kingdom; both boast overall higher rates of vaccination but their citizens remain restricted from entry into the U.S. This sets the stage for a significant travel and trade imbalance.

Reciprocate Global Trade & Partnership

With the science supporting it, the reopening of international travel corridors will enable the U.S. to make good on its promise to our neighbors and international partners, strengthening global trade in the process.

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It’s time for the U.S. to step up and lead by example with the travel policies we enact and the COVID-19 restrictions we enforce,” says John Coffman, Direct Travel’s Chief Financial Officer. “We need to be good partners to our neighbors and show our global allies that we have a clear plan in place to safely restart international travel again.

Currently, there is a growing list of countries that allow vaccinated travelers from the U.S. without the same opportunity being extended by the U.S.  Some countries have even called for banning American travelers until the loosening of travel restrictions are reciprocated by the current administration, and the EU has recommended reinstating a ban on travelers from the U.S.

In the business realm, this makes for a very one-sided process for companies conducting international travel and trade. Back in June when France reopened its borders to American travelers, Direct Travel’s Sam De Franco accepted an invite from Delta and Air France to visit and experience it for himself. One key insight came when France’s Secretary of State for Tourism, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, explained that while he was delighted to see Americans traveling back to France, he was disappointed the U.S. had not reciprocated.

Unfortunately, the longer American borders are closed, the greater this deficit with our strongest allies grows. According to numbers from the U.S. Travel association, for every day the border is closed to Canadian visitors the U.S. loses $1.5 billion in potential travel exports. At Direct Travel, we have office locations and a significant team presence in Canada. The ability to interact with our colleagues and North American counterparts is an integral part of the business we conduct.

Next Steps

While Direct Travel and our industry colleagues are calling on the U.S. to follow the science, rethink its travel restrictions, and lead by example, we continue to wait on next steps from the federal government.

As recently as this past month, the White House has been considering a plan to allow fully vaccinated international travelers into the country. This comes as a wide range of travel and lobbying groups have called for a clear and consistent blueprint for resuming international travel. However, even with these voices gaining momentum and support, current border restrictions continue to be renewed on a monthly basis without considerations made for vaccinated travelers.

Here at Direct Travel, we will continue to work closely with our fellow TMCs and the Travel Management Coalition to ensure that international travel corridors are safely vetted and quickly reopened. Whether the U.S. decides to implement COVID-testing, vaccination requirements, or a "traffic light system", we know that there is a path forward that will make sense for both the health of our citizens and well-being of the international travel community.

For the latest updates as they happen, follow along with us and the Travel Management Coalition on Twitter.