Green list in focus: Why the US should be first in the queue

Simon Veness
·4-min read
Will we be travelling to New York this summer? - Getty
Will we be travelling to New York this summer? - Getty

Rochelle Walensky might well be the most important person in America as far as Britain’s transatlantic holiday hopes this year are concerned.

The director of the USA’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a watershed report on April 2, indicating that the country’s top scientific health body is preparing to loosen the pandemic-enforced bonds on its US$233 billion international tourism industry.

That has put travel companies on both sides of the Atlantic on ‘green’ alert for the possible resumption of holidays to the US after more than a year of Covid-19 interruption.

Walensky’s bulletin didn’t allow for an immediate return to unfettered travel, but it did highlight a significant signpost towards setting the table for a 2021 vacation renaissance – that people who have been fully vaccinated are effectively safe to start travelling again.

The CDC director’s statement was tempered by a warning of a short-term rise in new virus cases, and non-essential journeys are still not advised, but the increasing speculation is America will declare itself back in the travel business in the near future, and that is sure to put it at the head of the queue for the UK’s new ‘green list’.

Coronavirus USA Spotlight Chart - cases default
Coronavirus USA Spotlight Chart - cases default

Walensky said: “The science shows us that getting fully vaccinated allows you to do more things safely and it’s important for us to provide that guidance even in the context of rising cases. Our guidance is silent on recommending or not recommending fully vaccinated people travel, but it speaks to the safety of doing so.”

Crucially, the CDC also admitted that people who are two weeks past their second vaccine jab no longer need a coronavirus test before or after trips, nor do they need to self-quarantine after travel, unless it is required by a state or local jurisdiction.

US Travel Association chief executive Roger Dow immediately greeted the statement with approval. He insisted: “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 by far.

“The CDC’s data opens the door much wider for resuming travel, albeit while continuing to carefully follow other health best practices. Acknowledging that vaccinations eliminate the need for testing and quarantines removes a key barrier to domestic travel. Rescinding the recommendation that international visitors must quarantine also is an important incremental step.”

The USTA has been lobbying hard for the government to lift its ban on flights from many countries, especially those from key tourism markets like Britain and Canada, and recently called on President Biden to commit to a May 1 deadline to introduce a plan for allowing overseas visitors to return.

The loss of 81 per cent of the US’s 70 million-plus international visitors in 2020 has had a drastic effect on the country’s unemployment rates, with travel related jobs accounting for fully 65 per cent of all lay-offs last year, along with the biggest chunk of the annual US$233 billion in revenue that inbound US travel generates.

Dow added: “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. Meanwhile, it remains important that all eligible Americans get vaccinated as soon as they can in order to more quickly recover the ability for all to travel freely.”

The US surpassed more than 100 million people with at least one dose of vaccine at the weekend, almost 40 per cent of the adult population, while one in five are now fully vaccinated, including more than half of those aged 65 or older.

beach in florida on april 4 - Getty
beach in florida on april 4 - Getty

Those figures, along with the CDC’s latest statement in favour of travel, will significantly strengthen the USTA’s hand in their next negotiations with the White House and act as a powerful argument towards both reviving the country’s travel economy and putting more people back to work.

And, with the UK third in US international visitation, after Canada and Mexico, and typically contributing around US$16 billion in revenue, there is no doubt America’s travel industry partners will be anxious to turn that tap back on as soon as possible.

US sources are also keenly aware that, with large parts of Europe struggling to keep their virus numbers down and also lagging behind in vaccinations, destinations with solid ‘green’ characteristics stand to benefit.

Adrian Jones, a British travel consultant and former Merlin Entertainments executive and chairman of Visit Orlando in Florida, explained: “I am more bullish that international travel between the UK and the US will recover far quicker than other destinations.

“It is clear the UK and USA are leading the way in vaccination rates and we hope the industry will be supported with a solution to the travel frustration. Guidelines need to be drawn up quickly to address safe travel and ease passenger concerns.”