Tourism industry leaders call on Biden administration to reopen international travel

CLEVELAND — Dozens of travel industry groups are urging the Biden administration to come up with a plan to lift international travel restrictions as the industry has been rocked financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In 2020 alone, the almost complete stoppage of travel caused a $1.1 trillion loss to the U.S. economy,” travel expert Amir Eylon said.

Airlines for America sent a letter to the White House’s COVID-19 response team stating vaccinated people should be allowed to travel internationally.

“One thing we discovered after 9/11 is that we as Americans see travel almost as a right,” Eylon said.

Travel and e-commerce groups are calling for what they believe are reasonable digital vaccine passport requirements and exemptions for fully-vaccinated Americans.

“You see some countries experimenting with the vaccine passports, you know, providing proof that you’ve been vaccinated to come into the country. You’ve seen some countries with very strict quarantine and testing procedures and rigor,” Eylon said.

Eylon said there has been a shift in travel trends due to the uncertainty about when certain countries may allow U.S. citizens back in.

“About a quarter of Americans who were intending to go internationally are saying, ‘You know what? I think because there’s really no clarity when as a whole international travel is going to open up, I’m going to focus on a domestic trip,’” Eylon said. “Maybe I was going to go to wine country in Italy. Now I’m going to go to wine country out west.”

That is exactly the case for Belinda and Joe McCauley who were traveling from Cleveland Hopkins to Las Vegas Monday night, but wishing they were taking a trip across the pond.

“Joe’s from Ireland. We’re hoping to get over there soon or maybe go on a cruise. That’s what we like to do,” Belinda McCauley said. “We’ve been wanting to, but right now we don’t think it’s worth the risk. We’ll wait till things settle down a little bit, but when we get the go-ahead, we’ll be ready, ready to go.”

While Eylon couldn’t offer a solid estimate on when we can expect to see international travel pick up, he believes when that time comes, flights will be full and popular tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower and the Roman Colosseum will be crawling with tourists.

“People are starting to engage in this newly coined term called ‘revenge travel.’ So I’ve got my little bucket list of places I want to go to,” Eylon said. “I’m going to go. I’m going to hurry up. I’m going to travel with a vengeance. I’m going to go and cross off those bucket list items as fast as I can because I don’t know if something else is going to come along.”