Survey Finds Preflight Covid Testing Deters Int'l Travel to U.S.

The U.S. Travel Association says the predeparture requirement for vaccinated international air travelers is a major barrier to economic recovery.

A survey found predeparture testing is deterring international travel to the United States.
A survey found predeparture testing is deterring international travel to the United States. Photo Credit: jorisvo Adobe Stock

A new survey conducted by Morning Consult for the U.S. Travel Association shows the inbound predeparture Covid-testing requirement imposed by the federal government is deterring international travelers from visiting the United States this summer, and remains a major barrier to economic recovery.

The research queried 1,801 vaccinated travelers from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Japan and India. Nearly half of the respondents (47 percent) who are unlikely to travel abroad in the next 12 months cited predeparture testing as a reason. More than half (54 percent) said the added possibility of having to cancel a trip due to U.S. predeparture testing would have a big impact on their likelihood to visit the United States.

A large majority of adults surveyed (71 percent) said they prioritize traveling to destinations without cumbersome entry requirements, including 29 percent who "strongly agree" with that statement.

Despite the bleak projections for inbound travel, an elimination of the requirement could save the summer travel season and accelerate recovery for travel businesses, according to U.S. Travel. Forty-six percent of international travelers would be more likely to visit the United States if predeparture testing requirements for vaccinated adults were lifted, the survey found. An increase of just 20 percent more visitors this summer than are currently expected would mean an additional half a million visitors each month and $2 billion extra in U.S. travel exports, according to the association.

Over the course of the summer, that spending could directly support approximately 40,000 U.S. jobs, the association added. International arrivals to the United States are still far below prepandemic levels and are not projected to recover to 2019 levels until 2024.

Roger Dow US Travel president CEO

"Before the pandemic, travel was the second-largest U.S. industry export and generated a positive trade balance of $53 billion," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel. "Inbound travel is critical to reducing the overall trade deficit, but the predeparture testing requirement remains an unnecessary hurdle to regaining visitors and competing for global tourism dollars."

He added: "While other countries with similar case, vaccination and hospital rates have removed their testing requirements and have begun rebuilding their travel economies, the U.S. is at a competitive disadvantage and risks a prolonged period of recovery."

With health and safety tools in place, most other sectors of the U.S. economy — including domestic air travel — are operating without a federal requirement for testing; international inbound air travel remains a key exception. 

The Morning Consult survey follows a May 5 letter in which more than 260 travel and business organizations urgently called on White House Covid-19 Response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha to repeal predeparture testing for vaccinated international air travelers.