Health · June 24, 2022

The travel industry is asking the White House to end Covid-19 testing requirements for overseas visitors

Travel and hospitality CEOs are increasing pressure on the Biden administration to scrap the requirement for everyone flying into the US to present a negative Covid-19 test before departure, saying the rule deters visitors and shame on the country’s tourism industry.

The push comes after the UK, Italy, Greece and others lifted similar requirements as pandemic restrictions ease around the world.

In the United States, health officials still require travelers flying into the country to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test, regardless of their vaccination status or citizenship. People can also provide proof that they have recovered from Covid. Other countries, including South Korea and Japan, are also requiring travelers to present a negative Covid test.

“The requirement for pre-departure testing creates uncertainty for travelers, another hurdle that could prompt them to choose a destination with less friction,” Marriott CEO Tony Capuano said in a statement to CNBC. “The US will miss out if we don’t remove these unnecessary barriers.”

Nearly 40 US mayors, including those from San Francisco and Miami, also sent a letter to Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House Covid-19 coordinator, urging him to lift the requirement. The letter said American cities are still struggling to win back international visitors.

Travel industry executives also met with Jha last week but said they were not given a timeline for when the requirement would end.

“You can’t specify when the pre-departure testing will be lifted,” Tori Barnes, president of the US Travel Association, told CNBC after the meeting.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

“Pre-departure testing discourages international travelers from booking a trip to the United States,” said Jon Bortz, CEO of Pebblebrook Hotel Trust, which owns 54 hotels nationwide.

Glenn Fogel, CEO of the world’s largest online tour operator Booking Holdings, said the testing requirements are pushing people to visit other countries. In other cases, he found that people simply find ways to circumvent the requirement.

“We’re also seeing cases of people circumventing the restriction simply by flying into Canada or Mexico and driving across the border,” Fogel said in a statement.

In a note to investors Wednesday, Morgan Stanley analyst Jamie Rollo wrote that the testing requirements become of particular concern for cruise travelers who worry about being stranded on a ship that tests positive.

Keith Barr, CEO of InterContinental Hotels Group, expressed frustration with the country’s testing requirements on Tuesday’s CNBC’s Closing Bell.

“It’s not in tune with the rest of the world,” he said.