NEW YORK (AP). The US says it is inviting the international community to visit it now that the government has lifted the travel ban on travelers from 33 countries.
In reality, however, it will still be difficult – if not impossible – for much of the globe to enter the country, and experts say it will take years to fully recover.
First, half of the world is unvaccinated and therefore does not meet US requirements for visiting foreigners. So while many Europeans can now come, people from poorer countries with fewer vaccines remain cut off from them, with a few exceptions.
For some public health experts, this raises ethical questions about policy.
“The issue is not limited access based on vaccination status,” said Nancy Kass, associate director of public health at the Berman Institute for Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University. “The point is, it systematically makes it impossible for people, mostly from poor countries, whose governments have not been able to provide anything close to the necessary supplies to be able to come and see their loved ones.”
Even if you get a jab, it may not be enough. Nonimmigrant adults must receive FDA-sanctioned vaccines or World Health Organization-listed vaccines for emergency use, otherwise they are also banned from entering the United States. Jeb CanSino is made in China.
In addition, in some places there are many months of delays in obtaining a visa. The American Tourism Association says there is an average delay of six months in visitor visa appointments, as many US consulates and embassies have yet to resume normal operations. Meanwhile, other countries have strict rules that make it difficult to travel abroad.
Experts expect a wave of travelers to hit US airports, which will go a long way in driving the industry as a whole. According to the U.S. Travel Association, the 28 European countries that were banned by U.S. policy until Monday accounted for 37% of foreign visitors in 2019.
Travelport, which analyzes flight booking data, reports that by region, the largest number of international travelers to the U.S. since mid-2020 have come from Latin America, but new travelers have been booking flights since late September when the Biden administration said it would end travel bans. mostly European. The opening of land borders with Canada and Mexico should also help rebuild travel, as they tend to be the two main sources of international visitors to the United States.
But the U.S. Travel Association predicted in June that international travel would not return to the 2019 level of nearly 80 million visitors until 2024. Foreign travelers dropped to 19 million in 2020 and are expected to rise slightly this year to over 26 million; in 2022 it will more than double to about 57 million, but it is still far from reaching its pre-pandemic level.
The United States is not alone in trying to speed up the journey as more people receive vaccines. Some countries that have closed their borders have begun easing, such as Australia, India and Thailand; Europe opened its doors to Americans a few months ago.
Others, such as China and Japan, remain essentially closed, making it difficult for their own citizens to leave and return due to mandatory quarantines. These two countries made it to the top five sources of foreign tourists in the United States in 2019, along with the United Kingdom, South Korea and Brazil, according to the U.S. government.
Sylvia Li, who is from China and lives in the US, recently married her partner in a small ceremony in New York City a few weeks ago without her family because she had no idea when they would be coming or when she would be. will be able to go to China.
“I managed to convince them that this is really nothing, this is just a party,” said Lee. But her mom didn’t fall for it. “I think my mom felt like she was missing something. It seemed to her that she was really missing something big. “
Edgar Orozco, who owns two restaurants, both named Chelito’s, in El Paso, Texas, was thrilled that the land border with Mexico would reopen Monday, and he hopes that will help fill the streets of downtown El Paso with shoppers – and visitors to his restaurants – this holiday season, unlike last year, when he said the streets were empty.
“Now that minor travelers can return, we look forward to returning to those good old days,” he said.
But he has heard of people who have visa problems, such as a seller in Mexico who, he says, cannot renew his visa until 2023. The waiting time for a reception for a US visitor visa in Ciudad Juarez, right on the border with El Paso, is 676 people. days, or nearly two years, according to the State Department.
In New York, the country’s largest tourist destination, companies are gearing up for more international travelers. Hudson Yards Mall is expanding its concierge services to include a wider range of foreign languages. City Experiences, a travel company that sends ferries to the Statue of Liberty and other attractions, is expanding sales overseas.
According to Mitchell Hochberg, president of hotel operator Lightstone, over the past two weeks, 75% of new bookings at three Moxy hotels in Manhattan came from Europe, mainly from the UK, Spain, France and Germany.
However, Hochberg believes it will take at least until spring for international bookings to return to pre-pandemic levels.
“The journey can be exhausting,” he said. “Flights are somewhat limited now.”
Concerns about COVID-19 infection also continue to hamper travel planning for many, even if they are now allowed to enter.
Mehek Khera does not want her parents in India to visit her in Santa Clara, California, although they could now – they are vaccinated and have visas. But the risk of getting sick is too high. Her father has heart disease and they have no US health insurance.
“We don’t feel comfortable adding another risk to that,” Kera said. “They’re not very happy to travel.”