The United States reopened its borders to fully vaccinated travelers from dozens of countries on Monday, ending more than 18 months of international travel restrictions that have separated families from loved ones and cost the global travel industry hundreds of billions of dollars in tourism revenue.
Under the new rules, fully vaccinated travelers will be allowed entry into the United States if they can show proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test performed within three calendar days of travel. Unvaccinated Americans and children under 18 are exempt from the requirement, but must take a test within one day of travel.
The change came in time for the holiday season, when the beleaguered tourism industry eagerly awaits an influx of international visitors, especially to popular destinations in major cities like New York, Los Angeles and Miami. The prolonged travel ban from 33 countries – including members of the European Union, China, India and Iran – has devastated the industry and resulted in losses of nearly $ 300 billion in spending visitors and more than a million American jobs, according to the US Travel Association.
“This is a monumental day for travelers, for the communities and businesses that depend on international tours, and for the US economy in general,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the association.
At Miami International Airport, a major hub for travel to and from South and Central America, Natalia Vitorini, a 28-year-old student living in Miami, waited for her parents to get off the first flight morning from São Paulo, Brazil, with her 3 week old son.
Her mother, Debora Vitorini, and her husband, Sergio, arrived a little after 6 a.m. The last time they saw each other was in March 2020, “said Natalia Vitorini.
And thousands of Canadians – “snowbirds,” usually retirees – are already on their way to Florida, Arizona and California, among other hot destinations, with campers and boats in tow.
“We are ready to take advantage of what the United States has to offer,” said Wayne Peters of Kelowna, British Columbia, who is about to embark on a 1,520 mile journey south to Yuma, Arizona, with his wife for five months hiking, golfing and playing pickle ball.
Delta Air Lines said that many of its international flights on Monday were full. The carrier’s first flight to the United States under the looser restrictions, the DL106, arrived from São Paulo, Brazil, to Atlanta on Monday, just before 10 a.m. EST. By the end of Monday, Delta plans to fly 139 mostly full planes from 38 countries to the United States
Hotels across the country, especially those in cities, have also felt the impact of the reopening announcement, with bookings and interest increasing during the holiday season. Hyatt, the hotel group, said about 50% of its bookings by international travelers to the United States for the week of November 8 came after the date was announced in mid-October, with travelers flocking to major cities.
Chef Daniel Boulud, who owns several restaurants in New York City, said overseas customers have already started calling to book or to put on a waiting list.
He added that although his restaurants were already “quite busy”, supported by domestic tourism and a trickle of international visitors, “the tap was not yet open to tourism”. International tourists, he said, will bring the necessary foot traffic, especially to his restaurants near the Theater District.
Many planes bound for the United States in the coming weeks will be filled with travelers reuniting family and friends after more than a year apart. Felicity Fowler, a retired homeopath from London, missed the birth of her grandson. He was born in New York in April; she has not seen her daughter, her mother, since February 2020.
“It was emotional torture to be so far away from my daughter when she needed me the most,” she said in an interview. “We have to make up for lost time. “