‘Inundated with American travellers’: End-of-testing rule opens floodgates for summer travel

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(CNN) — As summer heats up, the United States is lifting its longstanding requirement for all travelers entering the country to present a negative Covid-19 test.

The news brings both a collective sigh of relief and a likely flood of new international travelers to an already chaotic summer season.

For many American travelers, the development means no longer having to worry about the hassle of testing before returning to the United States, or the cost and burden of staying abroad to quarantine and wait for a test result. negative if a pre-trip test is positive.

International travelers to the United States, meanwhile, can plan trips without fear of having to cancel due to a positive test. Most non-US citizens still need to be vaccinated to travel to the country.

And the battered travel industry applauds the removal of the barrier for both sets of potential customers.

The rule, which was put in place in January 2021, will end for travelers to the United States starting at 12:01 a.m. ET on Sunday, June 12. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say they will reevaluate the rule if the Covid-19 situation changes.

The development comes after intense pressure from travel and tourism industry groups as the industry continues to rebound from more than two years of a pandemic-induced downturn.

For months, these organizations have been calling for the testing requirement to be scrapped, as has been the case in Canada and the UK since March, as well as most of Europe. After Friday’s announcement of the end of the rule, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) and the US Travel Association (USTA) were among the groups that released statements applauding the move.

AHLA President and CEO Chip Rogers described it as a “meaningful victory for hotels and the wider travel industry” in a statement on Friday, calling the requirement outdated and creating a “chilling effect” on inbound international travel.

USTA President and CEO Roger Dow, meanwhile, pointed out that ending the testing requirement could attract 5.4 million additional visitors to the United States and an additional $9 billion in spending. of travel until the end of 2022.

Tourists and locals walk in a very touristy area of ​​Athens, Greece, on June 1, 2022.

Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP via Getty Images

“2022 is three seasons in one”

Even though many players in the travel industry support the development, some experts warn of the resulting increase in demand, decrease in availability and rise in prices, worsening what has already been a landscape. of chaotic travel in the United States and abroad.

“Europe is going to be inundated with American travelers,” Mina Agnos, president of Travelive, a Greece travel agency with offices in Athens and Delray Beach, Fla., told CNN Travel via email.

“Speaking with travel consultants across the United States, the consensus is that 2022 is ‘three seasons in one’. Hotel availability is very tight and local services [such as] guides, drivers, local air, ferry and rail services and restaurants will all be at full capacity this season,” Agnos said.

It’s an assessment that the tourism industry, especially the hospitality sector, is thrilled to see.

Chitra Stern, CEO of Martinhal Resorts, a family-centric luxury hotel group with properties across Portugal, said US testing restrictions have “held back many travellers” from planning trips abroad, in especially families, which are the heart of the brand.

Because a negative test is no longer required to return to the United States, Stern expects to see an increase in the number of customers based in the United States – the first market for Martinhal property in downtown Lisbon. – booking stays in Portugal and throughout Europe.

“We now expect to welcome many more Americans booking last-minute summer trips and long weekends in town,” Stern said.

London is expecting a surge in American visitors now that the testing rule has been scrapped.  US airline passengers arriving in London reached near pre-pandemic levels during Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee.

London is expecting a surge in American visitors now that the testing rule has been scrapped. US airline passengers arriving in London reached near pre-pandemic levels during Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.

Abbie Trayler-Smith for CNN

Laura Citron, CEO of Visit London, expects to see a similar increase in the number of American travellers, who make up London’s biggest inbound tourism market, heading to the capital this summer.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have seen spikes in bookings from the United States to London when travel restrictions were lifted,” Citron told CNN Travel via text message, adding that passengers on flights from the United States in London almost reached pre-pandemic levels during the week of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

According to Agnos, travelers looking to vacation in Greece this summer should start planning their trips immediately and expect to face crowds. If Agnos’ business is any indication, the Mediterranean country is set to see an overflow of tourism in the coming months, so much so that June is “virtually full” for Travelive’s guides, transfer vehicles and even yachts, Agnos said.

This is a first in the 21-year history of the tour operator.

“Hotel availability is a serious concern, even in areas like Athens and Mykonos, where inventory was always adequate,” Agnos explained. “This is the first time we have had to stop taking business due to lack of availability.”

A view of the Boni Windmill and the old port of Mykonos in May 2020. This summer accommodation will be restricted, according to a travel advisor.

A view of the Boni Windmill and the old port of Mykonos in May 2020. This summer accommodation will be restricted, according to a travel advisor.

Byron Smith/Getty Images

“An increase in transatlantic demand”

It remains to be seen exactly how much the lifted restriction will drive up airfare costs. But it’s safe to say that with the inevitable increase in demand, passengers should consider booking flights as soon as possible to get the best deal.

According to Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights, an airfare tracking and booking site, increased demand could lead airlines to expand their routes and services to popular destinations like Europe.

“I expect to see an increase in demand for transatlantic travel and airlines are responding by adding more flights to capture new groups of travelers wanting to travel between the United States and Europe,” Keyes said.

It’s definitely a matter of supply and demand, Kyle Potter, editor of flight and travel deals website Thrifty Traveler, told CNN Travel.

“A lot of domestic fares are higher than ever, and that’s because that’s where the demand is the highest,” Potter said. “As more and more people look to Europe and beyond, we could easily see airlines raise fares, especially during the peak summer season.”

Potter recommends traveling mid to late August and early September. “We’re still finding great deals to Europe like $500 (or less) nonstop fares to London or Rome during this time after the transatlantic rush has died down a bit.”

Travelers to high-volume destinations should also exercise extra patience in light of the staffing shortages the travel industry continues to face in the hotel, restaurant and airline sectors.

“I have concerns about service delivery this year,” Agnos said. “Staffing remains very challenging, so service levels may not be comparable to pre-Covid levels, particularly in luxury travel services.”

Kathy Hirst, travel manager for Black Pearl Luxury Services, a Salt Lake City-based bespoke tour operator, said while she was “thrilled” about the lifting of the testing requirement, she also expects some frustration from customers who waited to book international travel until testing. was no longer needed and can now cope with limited availability.

Visitors were already queuing to enter the famous Louvre museum in Paris on April 29.  The summer travel season will be very busy in many parts of Europe.

Visitors were already queuing to enter the famous Louvre museum in Paris on April 29. The summer travel season will be very busy in many parts of Europe.

AFP via Getty Images

“Now that they’re ready to book, they’ll most likely be disappointed due to the lack of inventory with tours, hotels, cruises and airfare,” Hirst said via email. “Right now, we are seeing many hotels, airlines, tour operators and cruise lines struggling to operate due to a lack of staff.”

Like Agnos, Hirst has noticed a significant increase in inquiries and bookings in European hotspots including France, Greece, Italy and the UK. She said destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico are also “extremely popular” and demand across the board has been so high that some of her colleagues are turning down requests to book custom trips.

“These routes are great fun to plan but take a lot of time and many advisors are turning away new clients because we’re so inundated with requests,” Hirst said.

“People have waited two years to travel, and pent-up demand is a good problem to have on our side, but also makes the days really long and stressful,” she said. “Hopefully things stabilize in the coming months, but right now travel is hotter than I’ve seen in my 20+ years in the industry.”

CNN’s Marnie Hunter and Forrest Brown contributed to this report.

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