The U.S. on Monday announced plans to ease international air travel restrictions to allow vaccinated foreign nationals to travel the country once again starting this fall.
The new policy, scheduled to take effect in early November, will require passengers to show evidence that they are fully vaccinated before boarding a US-led aircraft, as well as evidence of a negative COVID test. 19 received within three days of the flight, White House COVID-19 Coordinator Jeff Zients said.
Testing requirements will also be strengthened for unvaccinated Americans who will now be required to be tested within one day of their trip to the US and again upon return.
For Southern Nevada, the changes signal the return of one of the key cogs missing in the midst of the tourism-dependent region’s economic recovery.
The news was greeted with applause by tourism and travel officials.
“Today marks an important turning point in the recovery of essential international visits to the Las Vegas tourism industry. This historic moment is also significant and welcome news for many of our major exhibitions and conventions that attract exhibitors and exhibitors from around the world. , ”Said Las Vegas Convention Visitors and Convention Authorities CEO Steve Hill in a statement.
Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resort Association, called the move “an essential step for Las Vegas recovery to move forward.”
“Las Vegas attracted nearly six million international visitors in 2019, who supported tens of thousands of jobs and generated billions of dollars for our local economy. “The lack of this key business has had a significant economic impact on our community over the last 18 months,” Valentine said in a statement.
Roger Dow, CEO and president of the U.S. Travel Association, said the return of international travelers is “huge,” in large part because they tend to stay longer and spend more than their domestic counterparts.
“When you look at CES and all the monster conventions that come here (in Las Vegas), if they can’t have international buyers here, we lose,” said Dow, who is in town for the travel association’s annual conference.
When those international flights will return remains in the air. Some of the logistics are not yet clear, including which vaccines would be acceptable under the US system and whether unproven ones in the US, such as AstraZeneca, would be acceptable. Zients said the decision would be at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which will also require airlines to collect contact information from all passengers in the U.S. to facilitate effort tracking.
The US has been one of the slowest countries to lift international travel restrictions, frustrating allies in the UK and the European Union, as well as tourism and travel officials.
The EU and the UK had previously moved to allow vaccinated US travelers to stay without quarantine, in a bid to boost business and tourism. But the EU recommended last month that some travel restrictions be reinstated for American travelers on the block due to the rampant spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus in America.
In May, Rosemary Vassiliadis, director of aviation at McCarran International Airport, testified before a Senate subcommittee and urged the federal government to find ways to restore international travel to the U.S., saying “the country’s overall access is unnecessarily hurting. our economic productivity “.
At McCarran, domestic air travel is starting to look more like pre-pandemic. International travel, however, has continued to remain.
The volume of international passengers for the first seven months of 2021 has decreased by almost 90 percent compared to the same period in 2019, with international carriers accounting for only 246,054 passengers in McCarran during that time, compared to nearly 2.2 million in 2019 .
“For Las Vegas, so much of our travel depends on people coming for tourism reasons,” said Chris Jones, chief marketing officer for McCarran International Airport.
“In terms of indoor air, we’re back to where we were,” Jones added. “International [travel] has been a major missing component. “
Jones said the return of those international flights will vary by market and by airline. Some airlines plan their international timetables in semi-annual segments, which may mean that some carriers may not return those flights until sometime in the spring, he added.
Jones said officials from McCarran and LVCVA will be in Milan for a conference next month to meet with air carriers.
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