(1:45 p.m. EDT) -- The Biden administration said today it is planning to lift U.S. travel restrictions for fully vaccinated international travelers, including from the UK and European Union.
White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients announced the new policies, which are expected to go into effect in early November -- no specific date has been set. International travelers would be required to provide proof of vaccine, undergo pre-flight Covid-19 testing within three days of their trip to the U.S., and present a negative test result.
The easing of restrictions will no doubt come as welcome news to cruise companies, who may see a big boost in sales for Caribbean cruises as international travelers seek out warm weather vacations.
“Anytime we hear positive news about opening boarders or less restrictions, it’s a good day for the travel industry,” says Michelle Fee, CEO of Cruise Planners, the largest home-based network of travel advisors. “We know that the protocols are working onboard ships, so the more people cruise safely, the more the confidence from concerned travelers will grow.”
For consumers, in a supply and demand market, the easing of restrictions may also lead to higher fares for cruise vacations, especially in prime winter months.
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The lifting of restrictions announced today would replace current bans on travel to the U.S. and may draw millions of visitors to the country.
The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) issued the following statement: "Cruise Lines International Association joins our peers across the travel and tourism sector to express our appreciation to the Biden Administration for recognizing the importance of international travel to the U.S. economy and for establishing a path for international visitors to travel to the United States responsibly.
"The cruise industry is an important driver of international visits to the United States, prompting approximately 2.5 million international visitors to travel to the United States to embark on a cruise in 2019, representing nearly 18 percent of all U.S. cruise embarkations. International cruise visitors in the United States spend $4.5 billion annually on hotel stays, transportation, retail and other U.S. businesses, supporting nearly 60,000 American jobs. Our members look forward to welcoming international travelers, including from the United Kingdom and the European Union, back to the United States while continuing to prioritize public health."
As part of the plan, there will be a new contact tracing order from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with airlines required to collect phone numbers and emails of international travelers so they can be alerted if they have been exposed to Covid-19.
At the same time, unvaccinated Americans looking to return home after being abroad will have stricter COVID-19 testing requirements. Almost all cruise lines that cater to Americans overseas – both ocean and river lines -- have vaccination requirements, however, so those are unlikely to have much of an effect.