Industry Applauds U.S. Border Opening Date for International Travelers

October 20, 2021

The Biden Administration has set Nov. 8 as the official date the U.S. will reopen its borders to fully vaccinated international visitors arriving by air, land and sea. The news was met with enthusiastic praise from officials throughout the tourism, trade show and event industries.

The original announcement in September of the intention to lift the travel ban in November for international visitors flying into the country was followed with an announcement last week by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that the Canada and Mexico borders would also reopen to international arrivals by land and sea. 

Under the new policy, international air travelers must show proof of full vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding their U.S.-bound flight. International visitors arriving by land and sea must also show proof of full vaccination, but are not required to have a COVID-19 test. No quarantine will be required for any international visitors. Unvaccinated people who are not American citizens will not be permitted to enter the country.

The 19-month pandemic travel ban has been a major blow to the U.S. economy, as it lost travelers, exhibitors, attendees and other professionals from countries affected by the restrictions, including those in the European Union as well as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Iran, Mexico and South Africa.

Easing the restrictions on international travelers from around the world will essentially reopen the country to millions of visitors, signaling a major boon for both the hospitality and business event industries, as they strive to recover from massive losses incurred during the pandemic, according to Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.  

“The set date of Nov. 8 for entry of fully vaccinated individuals will create confidence in the marketplace, not only for leisure travel, but importantly for the international business traveler who can now travel to the U.S. for meetings, conventions and professional events,” Dow said. “This critically important segment of travel is now positioned to rebound after severe declines in business travel spending by inbound visitors, which fell by 80% last year.”

U.S. Travel is currently projecting spending by international visitors on business travel to increase by 160% in 2022 (over 2021), growing to about $24 billion—though that is just 65% of its 2019 level. That spending supports millions of American jobs, which is dependent on the return of international business travel, according to Dow.

Finally having a confirmed border reopening date for international travelers is a blessing for shows in the U.S., according to David Audrain, CEO and executive director of the Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO) and co-president of the Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance (ECA).

“We have been advocating for this firm date for most of this past year, as international participation is critical for many shows,” Audrain said. “The largest international participation for many shows often comes from Canada and Mexico, so having these borders fully open again is also a huge positive step forward for our industry.”

Business events are key drivers of growth for small businesses and essential to a full economic recovery, according to Audrain, who also pointed to recent research by Epistemix as proof that the risk of COVID-19 infection at business events is extremely small.  

“We are confident that our industry can operate safely and bring valuable events back to the industries and businesses we serve,” he said.  

Sherrif Karamat, president and CEO of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) also believes Nov. 8 will mark a critical timestamp for the business event industry.

“It’s essential that we get back to business and deliver value for our audiences,” Karamat said. “The timing couldn’t be better, as we hope to welcome the world to Convening Leaders 2022 at Caesars Forum in Las Vegas January 9-12.”

The timing is also ideal for IMEX America, which is set to take place at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas Nov. 8-11 and is being hailed as a “homecoming” for the industry.

“We’re thrilled by the news,” said Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX Group. “This gives the green light to hundreds more global buyers, exhibitors and industry professionals to come to Las Vegas for IMEX America. 

Bauer called the decision to relax travel restrictions for vaccinated international travelers a “massive morale booster for the industry.” 

“We know there is huge, pent-up demand among business event professionals to reconnect face to face and to use IMEX America as a platform to kickstart U.S. and global business and plan ahead for 2022,” she said.

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