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Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) delivered the news the travel industry has long been waiting for: It is safe for fully vaccinated individuals to travel domestically without quarantining or taking additional COVID-19 tests, though they should still wear masks in public.
Since this morning, Beci Mahnken of MEI-Travel has already seen an increase in clients reaching out who are “ready to have a conversation about booking.”
It’s a relief to be “turning a corner,” she said.
Steve Orens, president of Plaza Travel, added that he frequently hears from clients once they get their second dose of the vaccine, and business requests have ramped up over the past few weeks. After the CDC released its guidance this morning, one client even emailed one of Orens’ advisors with the subject line, “Some good news (finally).”
“Now, I think the floodgates on travel requests will open wide,” he said.
Industry groups, such as the U.S. Travel Association, also celebrated the news.
“The CDC’s new travel guidance is a major step in the right direction that is supported by the science and will take the brakes off the industry that has been hardest hit by the fallout of COVID-19, by far,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel, in a statement. “As travel comes back, U.S. jobs come back.”
As travel comes back, U.S. jobs come back.
Although the news “opens the door much wider for resuming travel,” Dow cautions that it is still important for travelers to continue following health and safety best practices, such as social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands.
David Van Ness, vice president of All-Travel, agreed.
“Our clients are wanting to travel,” Van Ness said. “[But] we need to continue on this trajectory and hope that people continue to wear masks and socially distance where necessary and appropriate.”
A sudden influx of travel may also cause a domino effect of new challenges for travel agents, such as “limited availability in the more popular destinations, increasing rates and the hidden challenge of finding car rentals, as the car rental companies have reduced their fleet so much,” Plaza Travel’s Orens said.
As of press time, some 100 million Americans (about 30% of the population) have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC guidance also comes with the warning that, although inoculated individuals are at low risk of contracting COVID-19 themselves and the risk of transmission to others is low, unnecessary travel should still be avoided.
“I would advocate against general travel overall,” said Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, in a White House briefing. “Our guidance is silent on recommending or not recommending fully vaccinated people travel. Our guidance speaks to the safety of doing so.”
And while the elimination of testing and quarantines “removes a key barrier” for domestic travel, another important next step is for all eligible Americans to get vaccinated as soon as they are able, Dow said, and for the CDC to rescind the recommendation that international visitors must also quarantine.
Since the CDC has determined that fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread COVID-19, logic dictates that additional rules also be relaxed.
The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) is also pushing for more to be done.
Eben Peck, executive vice president of advocacy for ASTA, said that although the loosening of restrictions for vaccinated travelers is something ASTA has called for “time and time again,” the various CDC orders put out over the last year have often “created confusion and uncertainty among travelers.”
“We are pleased to see some movement in the right direction,” he said in a statement. “While this announcement is welcome, more needs to be done. Since the CDC has determined that fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread COVID-19, logic dictates that additional rules also be relaxed, including restrictions on cruise travel and the rule requiring Americans returning from overseas to test negative for COVID-19 before boarding their return flight.”
U.S. Travel’s Dow also doubled down on the importance of “reclaiming a lot of what’s been lost” in the travel industry.
“The year-long halt on travel has devastated U.S. employment, with travel-supported jobs accounting for 65% of all U.S. jobs lost last year,” he said. “The travel industry’s mantra throughout the pandemic has been to be guided by the science, which clearly shows that now is the right time for this move.”
The DetailsAmerican Society of Travel Advisorswww.asta.org
Centers for Disease Control & Preventionwww.cdc.gov
U.S. Travel Associationwww.ustravel.org