Travel industry welcomes easing of US restrictions

by Jessica Pook

The announcement that fully vaccinated UK travellers will be able to return to the US from November has boosted consumer confidence, says the travel industry.

The much-anticipated reopening of the transatlantic corridor, which has been closed since March 2020, was confirmed on Monday with fully vaccinated UK travellers able to visit the US from early November.

Travellers will have to provide proof of vaccination and present proof of a negative Covid test taken within three days of departure.

As a result, airlines have seen “bookings rocket” with Virgin Atlantic reporting a 600% increase compared to the same time last week.

The airline said that New York had the most bookings of any US city overnight, with "Orlando flights up 11 fold, Miami 9 fold and Las Vegas 8 fold."

ABTA spoke of hopes for a winter bookings peak, saying: “The USA is by far our most popular long haul destination and in a normal year attracts almost five million visitors from the UK. The announcement will come in time to allow people to, among other things, take the ever popular Christmas shopping trips to New York and is a very welcome boost for the winter sports market whose customers love the country’s high quality ski resorts.”

Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO, agreed that the prospect of the U.S. lifting travel restrictions to restore transatlantic travel between the U.K. and U.S is welcome news - not just for hard-pressed airlines but for the wider Travel & Tourism sector, which has been decimated by COVID-19.

She added: “WTTC strongly advocates for fully vaccinated travellers to be able to travel freely and safely, and for unvaccinated travellers to be able to do so with testing, alongside enhanced health and safety protocols.”

Joanne Dooey, president of The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA), the professional body for travel agents and the travel sector in Scotland, said: “America is one of the most significant markets for Scottish travel agents, so news that double vaccinated Scots will soon be able to travel to the USA once again for business, visiting friends and family and for holidays is a huge boost.”

Whilst Steve Norris, MD of EMEA for Flight Centre believes the announcement to be a huge turning point for the travel industry.

He said: “Pre-Covid, 15% of Flight Centre’s annual bookings were to the US, representing hundreds of thousands of customers.

"To Brits, the US represents so much more than our largest economic ally; we’ve been waiting with baited-breath for 18 months to see family, reunite with loved ones and explore the country once again. We applaud President Biden for his decision to revoke these restrictions following the incredible vaccine rollout on both sides of the Atlantic and have our agents prepped and ready to help Brits cross the pond for the first time in 18-months.”

And speaking on behalf of one of the UK's most popular destinations in the USA, Casandra Matej, President and CEO of Visit Orlando, said: “We are thrilled by the news about our borders reopening to the UK - our top international overseas market.

“Knowing there is a huge pent-up demand for Orlando holidays, we are ready to safely welcome back international visitors to experience the exciting new developments that have continued taking place in The Theme Park Capital of the World.”

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