Here’s what to expect when the US opens its borders

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(Granthshala) – The announcement in November to vaccinate foreign nationals after an 18-month ban was welcome news to families grappling with cross-border isolation, airlines to restart long-haul routes, and eager tourists and industry insiders. for sources.
Trip planning is already underway: According to new data released from travel booking platform hopper, User searches for all US-bound international flights increased by 27% from the day before the announcement date, while searches for flights from Europe to the US increased by 68%.

But travelers to the US as excited as they are to reconnect with their loved ones, attend an IRL business conference or take selfies in front of landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, should be equally prepared for the travel experience that these days. Very different – and still constantly changing.

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First, there are new entry restrictions.

All foreign nationals must show proof of vaccination and a negative test within three days prior to travel (meanwhile, unvaccinated US citizens will undergo more rigorous testing), as well as comply with enhanced contract tracing measures.


On land, safety and health regulations that vary wildly from sea to glistening (eg Florida versus state mask mandates and vaccine requirements for indoor dining and other activities in New York) are all but guaranteed to generate confusion.

a patch of security measures

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“As Europeans, when we think of America, we think of one big country,” said Catherine Choulet, a Boston-based French-American dual citizen, who is president and CEO. Global DMC Partners, a network of independently owned destination management companies.

“And the reality is that it’s many different states with many different personalities, and it will be visible more than ever in health and hygiene protocols.”

Further complicating the picture are important entry guidelines that have yet to be announced by the US government and health officials, namely how it will assess and verify vaccination status. For example, digital certificates, also known as vaccine passports, which are popular in many countries around the world, have yet to take hold in the US.

Arriving travelers must be “fully vaccinated”, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who have received vaccines approved for use in the US as well as those for emergency use by the World Health Organization Listed which have not yet been received. Such approvals in the US, such as the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Bottom-line? While the lifting of the ban is “good news, it is still a very stressful and awkward time to travel,” noted Robert Cotte, an analyst based in London. A2 Global exposure, an international security risk management firm. “Travellers should not anticipate anything like pre-pandemic travel, not at this stage.”

Here’s what first-time travelers to the US should take the guesswork out of, plus insider tips for a trip that’s as safe and smooth as possible (hint: be sure to pack extra patience).

Visitors are likely to find smaller cities, such as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, less crowded as the US reopens its borders.

Danielle Slim/AFP via Getty Images

More people in popular destinations

Hungry for a bite from the Big Apple or spot A-listers in Los Angeles? Join the crowd: Domestic tourism is already resuming in popular US destinations (remember Hawaii’s governor advising tourists to stop visiting in August?), before foreign travelers head to their favorite attractions. returned to the centre.

Smaller metropolitan destinations, sometimes referred to as “second-tier” cities, can offer an attractive alternative with a distinctly “American” flavor and fewer crowds, says Mario Tricosi, founder and CEO. Apparium Hotel Group, is located in Chicago.

“Now is the time to be in Pittsburgh or Minneapolis or Kansas City and go to a place you wouldn’t normally think of,” Tricosi tells Granthshala. “They have a different culture. They have that entrepreneurial base. And the culinary scenes in many of these cities are world-class — they’re just as good as the restaurants in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.”

prepare your wallet

Industry insiders say rising demand from international travelers could lead to an increase in hotel room and vacation rentals this season, when domestic holiday bookings are already strong in many US markets.

According to the latest data from the rental management software firm GuestReservations for vacation rentals in November and December are 377% higher than in 2020, and 91% higher than pre-pandemic levels in 2019. Meanwhile, the average nightly rental rate on Thanksgiving is $415, a 58% increase from 2019. , and the average Christmas rates in 2021 are $599, representing a huge jump from their $332/night average in 2019.

Which means the long-awaited Thanksgiving family reunion at a great vacation rental, prized, could be putting a serious dent in your vacation budget.

lack of staff

Tourists are finally returning, but the US hospitality and tourism industry is still Struggle to fill millions of jobs For fired cashiers, front desk staff, housekeepers and other employees who have left the sector to work elsewhere. As a result, customers may see long lines for even minor amenities like check-in and daily housekeeping.

In light of those widespread labor shortages, Tricoci encourages travelers accustomed to a high level of customer service, a sentiment the American hospitality industry has traditionally been known for managing their expectations, a sentiment echoed by many of their peers.

At the same time, he said the arrival of foreign guests gives the industry another impetus to adapt to its staffing shortfalls. “At the end of the day, they’re traveling, they’re spending money, and it’s up to us to address this issue,” he tells Granthshala.

Rental cars can be hard to come by for visitors to Florida and other popular destinations.

Rental cars can be hard to come by for visitors to Florida and other popular destinations.

Joe Redl/Getty Images

Rental cars are also in short supply

Visitors craving a quintessential American road trip (or an extra layer of protection from coronavirus exposure) may have to put the brakes on those plans, thanks to an ongoing rental car shortage Experts warn there could be another problem this winter, especially in hot-weather places like Florida and Hawaii.
Michael Meyer, President by-highway, which provides Car Rental real-time rate management intelligence, advises anyone needing a rental car to book ASAP – and if possible pre-pay, taking into account ongoing supply shortages. This is expected to continue with increasing demand from international customers.

“Prepaid is not a 100% guarantee, but most operators will prioritize these rental types over pay-on-arrival rentals,” Meyer told Granthshala via email.

Navigating the different (and confusing) health regulations and protocols

A major resource for anyone planning to travel to the US: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention County-Level Coronavirus Data Tracker, which provides useful data about case numbers in specific counties as well as local mandates and hospitalizations.
However, individual state regulations for vaccination and mask requirements are more difficult to understand. And mandates are common even at the city level — locations including New York City, San Francisco And new Orleans They have their own vaccination requirements for some indoor venues, including restaurants.
Restaurants in New Orleans and some other US cities require proof of vaccination.

Restaurants in New Orleans and some other US cities require proof of vaccination.

Mario Tama / Getty Images

In federally regulated places such as airports and airplanes, masks are mandatory, as well as on regional and local transportation such as trains and subways. But actual enforcement is difficult to assess remotely in places like hotels – where a travel advisor or agent can be invaluable.

“As a travel consultant, my job is to be able to gauge my client’s comfort level and know not just the destination, but the properties themselves,” said Maria Diego, co-founder of Miami-based luxury travel agency. diego trip.

“Who has taken this time to renovate and innovate versus who has let things go haywire? I am able to keep up to date with what is actually being implemented by the hotel, as I have access to agencies that are doing frequent site inspections. It’s one thing to put your policies on your website, and it’s another to practice it.”

limited options for testing

Many Europeans are accustomed to quick, cheap (or free) COVID-19 tests, with multiple testing centers in major cities. and while testing the capacity expanding to the US, including domestic options, it is not as convenient, especially in rural areas, as may be used for some foreign visitors. It is necessary to plan in advance to get the required test results in sufficient time before the return journey.

In addition, foreign visitors need to remember that all travelers, including children aged two years and older, entering the US must also show a negative test. This is a notable difference from many countries in Europe and elsewhere, which generally exempt children under the age of 12.

Also, don’t forget that with the rise of the delta version, the EU removed the US from its safe list along with some countries in early September. banning non-essential travel from there. As a result, travelers returning from the US to their home countries may be subject to quarantine, additional testing or other potential complications.

Flexibility remains important

As news of the US easing entry restrictions for the travel industry celebrates, its associated complications underscore a point that industry insiders continue to emphasize: no matter where they go. However, travelers should remain flexible (booking refundable airfare, accommodation and other expenses) and as informed as possible (staying on top of the rules).

“Change can happen from moment to moment,” said Michelle Couch-Friedman, executive director of the consumer advocacy nonprofit. Elliot Advocacy, tells Granthshala. “Even if the US intends, at least for now, to allow entry to vaccinated international travelers starting in November, there is no guarantee that this will actually happen or when. If Covid has taught us anything, it is to prepare for the unexpected.”

Top image: Passengers collect their luggage as they arrive at Miami International Airport on September 20, 2021. (Photo by Joe Redl/Getty Images)


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