The lifting of restrictions on vaccinated travelers from 33 countries that will allow foreign nationals to visit the U.S. beginning in November is already having a positive economic effect. Virgin Atlantic reported a 600% jump in flight bookings to the U.S. after the announcement, with other airlines seeing big gains as well.
“Following the gradual relaxation of travel restrictions, we’ve seen demand increase to many of our global destinations, but the USA has always been our heartland. We are simply not Virgin without the Atlantic, and I’m thrilled we’re finally able to return to the country that’s so important to us,” chief commercial officer Juha Järvinen said.
New York leads the way for bookings, followed by other popular cities such as Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Orlando for Disney World fans.
Travel and hospitality has been one of the sectors hardest hit by COVID-19, and employment numbers have fluctuated in opposition to COVID waves over the course of the pandemic. With all those flight bookings, travelers will need somewhere to stay, so surges in hotel and vacation rental stays should be forthcoming. Once those visitors arrive, they’ll be eating at restaurants and spending money at shops.
Even as Americans have focused on domestic travel with strict protocols in place for many popular foreign destinations, the U.S. tourism industry has missed out on hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue that foreign travelers might have brought in. As of late August, air travel to the U.S. was down 43% from pre-pandemic levels, according to Airlines for America.
Visitors must both be fully vaccinated with a shot approved in the U.S. or by the W.H.O. and have a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of arrival.
“The new system allows us to implement strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said.