CDC to Repeal Predeparture Covid Testing for All Inbound Air Travelers

The move is projected to bring 5.4 million visitors to the United States and $9 billion in spending this year. 

Airport Crowd National Tourism and Travel Strategy

Facing mounting pressure from businesses and lawmakers, the Biden administration is expected to announce today that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will lift its longstanding mandate of Covid testing for inbound air travelers, CNN and other news outlets reported this morning, citing a senior government official. The mandate, in effect since January 2021, will expire at 12:01 a.m. this Sunday.

The official, speaking Friday morning on the condition of anonymity, said that the agency would reevaluate the need for the testing requirement every 90 days and that it could be reinstated if a troubling new variant emerges.

Roger Dow US Travel president CEO

“Today marks another huge step forward for the recovery of inbound air travel and the return of international travel to the United States,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, in a statement in advance of the official announcement. “U.S. Travel and our partners advocated tirelessly for months to ensure this requirement would be lifted…. We thank President Biden, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Dr. Ashish Jha and others in the administration for recognizing the immense economic power of travel and its ability to reconnect the U.S. with the global community.”

Mayors and Businesses Urged U.S. to End Testing Mandate

The administration faced growing pressure this week to repeal the requirement of a negative Covid test to enter the United States. A bipartisan group of 38 mayors representing American cities and counties spanning Miami to San Francisco sent a letter on June 7 to the White House asking for the removal of predeparture testing as a requirement for U.S. entry by air for vaccinated individuals. Mayors of Houston, Atlanta, Minneapolis and Philadelphia also sent separate letters with the same request, totaling 42 mayors.

In the group letter, the city leaders stated: “American cities are still struggling to regain international visitors after more than two years of pandemic-related restrictions. In 2021, international visitation was a staggering 78 percent below prepandemic levels. Our constituents and our businesses suffered greatly from this steep decline in international travel spending, and they cannot fully recover until this vital sector of the U.S. economy rebounds.”

The mayors’ letter followed a similar appeal by more than 260 travel businesses and organizations from across the U.S., who wrote in May to Dr. Ashish Jha, White House coronavirus response coordinator, imploring the administration to “immediately remove the inbound testing requirement for vaccinated air travelers.”

More than 40 nations recently lifted predeparture testing requirements without negatively impacting public health, according to U.S. Travel. While nearly all other aspects of the economy have reopened without a testing requirement, inbound air travel for vaccinated individuals remains an outlier. For example, the U.S. government does not require proof of a negative Covid-19 test at U.S. land border ports of entry.

White House Sets Strategy for Attracting International Visitors

Earlier this week, Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo announced a new National Travel and Tourism Strategy that sets an ambitious five-year goal of attracting 90 million international visitors to the United States each year. The department estimates these visitors would spend $279 billion annually — expenditures that will support job creation in communities across the United States and its territories.
International travel spending in the U.S. was still 78 percent lower in 2021 than in 2019, according to U.S. Travel. The testing requirement has been a major barrier to economic recovery. In fact, a recent U.S. Travel survey found that 54 percent of international travelers were less likely to visit the U.S. due to the mandated Covid test. Repealing the pre-departure testing requirement is projected to bring an additional 5.4 million visitors to the U.S. and an additional $9 billion in travel spending through the remainder of 2022, per the study.