US Travel Industry Calls on Biden Administration to Lift Travel Restrictions

This week, a group of 26 U.S. travel and aviation industry organizations sent a letter to President Biden urging his Administration to lift travel restrictions and take steps to reopen international travel by May.

On 22 March, a group of 26 U.S. travel and aviation industry organizations sent a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden urging his Administration to take steps to reopen international travel by late spring. While the COVID-19 crisis is still being managed, the development and distribution of vaccines is accelerating in the U.S., and such industries as airline and travel are counting on a surge in activity this summer. The letter urges that Biden work with these industries to develop a risk-based, data-driven roadmap to rescind travel restrictions by 1 May.

Specifically, the groups asked that the Biden Administration maintain current testing requirements of international travelers arriving to the U.S. while also adding a testing exemption for those travelers who have been vaccinated. The groups also asked that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) update its guidance to allow vaccinated travelers to travel safely, and for the federal government to develop standards for health credentials, perhaps leading to the development of a vaccine passport.

The topic of vaccine passports has gained significant ground recently. On 17 March, the European Union’s (EU) executive body proposed a certificate for vaccinated travelers to freely travel across the EU’s 27 nations by summer. Currently, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is testing a version of an electronic passport called Travel Pass, while IBM is developing one called Digital Health Pass. These versions would be stored in one’s phone to be shown at airports for travel.

As governments and the private sector develop such electronic vaccine passports, there will likely be questions top of mind regarding data privacy and equitable access. IATA and IBM are both using blockchain technology to ensure data security. To ensure that vaccine passports are not privileging only those with smart phones or the affluent, paper passports and their equitable distribution are likely to be top of mind as plans are rolled out.

Such efforts are vital steps to getting the travel industry and the movement of people back to a normal pace. The letter sent to Biden this week argues that data-driven benchmarks and a timeline can help maintain strong risk-based protections against COVID-19, encourage business and leisure travelers to prepare for and comply with requirements for travel by summer, and accelerate rehiring and economic recovery in the travel and aviation industries.

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How This Impacts Mobility

The COVID-19 pandemic brought the travel and global mobility industries to a near standstill, both of which rely upon safe and accessible air travel to move people around the world. The asks of the aviation and travel industries to develop a clear plan to reopen international travel and the development of vaccine passports and certificates around the world are major steps toward a return to more normal levels of travel, which will ultimately boost workforce mobility and the global economy. To learn more about the safe and successful return to workforce mobility, check out our Workforce Mobility Safety Framework. Should any member have questions regarding this update, please reach out to our Vice President of Member Engagement and Public Policy Rebecca Peters, rpeters@worldwideerc.org.