Survey: U.S. predeparture testing a barrier to recovery

A new survey conducted by Morning Consult for U.S. Travel Association found the inbound predeparture testing requirement from the federal government is having a "devastating" impact on travelers’ likelihood of visiting the United States this summer and remains a major barrier to economic recovery.

A survey of vaccinated international travelers in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Japan and India found that predeparture testing requirements are a deterrent to travel and are making it less likely that people will choose to visit the U.S.

Nearly half of respondents (47 percent) who are unlikely to travel abroad in the next 12 months cited predeparture testing requirements as a reason. More than half of international travelers (54 percent) said the added uncertainty of potentially having to cancel a trip due to U.S. predeparture testing requirements would have a big impact on their likelihood to visit the U.S. A majority of adults surveyed (71 percent) agree they prioritize traveling to destinations without "cumbersome" entry requirements, including 29 percent who said they "strongly agree."

Summer Travel Season

Forty-six percent of international travelers would be more likely to visit the United States if predeparture testing requirements for vaccinated adults were lifted. If the removal of the predeparture testing requirement would bring an increase of just 20 percent more visitors this summer than we are otherwise expecting, it would mean an additional half a million visitors each month and $2 billion in valuable U.S. travel exports. Over the course of the summer, that spending could directly support approximately 40,000 U.S. jobs. 

This is particularly urgent as international arrivals to the U.S. are still far below pre-pandemic levels and are not projected to recover to 2019 levels until 2024.

“Before the pandemic, travel was the second-largest U.S. industry export and generated a positive trade balance of $53 billion,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement. “Inbound travel is critical to reducing the overall trade deficit, but the predeparture testing requirement remains an unnecessary hurdle to regaining visitors and competing for global tourism dollars. 

"While other countries with similar case, vaccination and hospital rates have removed their testing requirements and have begun rebuilding their travel economies, the U.S. is at a competitive disadvantage and risks a prolonged period of recovery.”

With health and safety tools in place, practically all other sectors of the U.S. economy—including domestic air travel—are operating without a federal requirement for testing; international inbound air travel remains a key exception.

The Morning Consult survey follows a May 5 letter in which more than 260 travel and business organizations called on White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha to repeal the predeparture testing requirement for vaccinated international air travelers.