Here’s what to expect when the United States opens its borders


Baccalaureate Blane, CNN

The announcement that vaccinated foreign nationals will be allowed back in the United States In November, after an 18-month ban, was good news for families struggling with cross-border separations, airlines eager to relaunch long-haul routes, and avid tourists and industry insiders.

Planning for the trip is already underway: according to recently released data from Hopper travel booking platform, user searches for all international flights to the United States increased 27% on September 20, the date of the announcement, compared to the previous day, while searches for flights from Europe to the United States were United States grew 68%.

But as excited as travelers to the United States are to reunite with loved ones, attend an IRL business conference, or take selfies in front of landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, they should also be prepared for an experience. different travel styles these days – and always evolving.

First, there are new entry restrictions.

All foreign nationals must show proof of vaccination and a negative test taken within three days of travel (unvaccinated U.S. citizens, on the other hand, will need to undergo more rigorous testing), as well as comply with enhanced security measures. contract tracing.

On the ground, safety and health regulations that vary wildly from sea to sea (staunch anti-mask states like Florida versus state mask mandates and vaccine requirements for indoor meals and other activities in New York, for example) are almost guaranteed to generate confusion.

A patchwork of security measures

“As Europeans, when we think of the United States, we think of a big country,” said Catherine Chaulet, a dual Franco-American nationality based in Boston who is President and CEO of Global DMC Partners, a network of independent destination management companies.

“And the reality is, these are many different states with many different personalities, and it will show more than ever in health and sanitation protocols.”

Complicating the picture further complicates the yet unannounced critical entry guidelines by the U.S. government and health officials on how it will assess and verify vaccine status. For example, digital certificates, also known as vaccine passports, which are popular in many countries around the world, have not yet taken root in the United States.

Incoming travelers must be “fully vaccinated,” which the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says includes those who have received vaccines approved for use in the United States as well as those listed for use. emergency by the World Health Organization that may not yet have received such approval in the United States, as the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The bottom line? Although the lifting of the ban is “good news, it is still a very stressful and delicate time to travel,” notes Robert Cottey, London-based analyst at A2 Global risk, an international security risk management company. “Travelers shouldn’t expect something like pre-pandemic travel, not at this point.”

Here’s what first-time travelers to the United States in a long time should expect, along with some insider’s advice on making the trip as safe and smooth as possible (hint: make sure you exercise more patience).

More people in popular destinations

Want to grab a bite of the Big Apple or spot stars in Los Angeles? Join the crowd: Domestic tourism in popular U.S. destinations is already rebounding (remember the governor of Hawaii advised tourists to stop coming in August?), Even before travelers from overseas. -sea don’t go back to the hot spots they missed.

Smaller metropolitan destinations, sometimes referred to as “second tier” cities, can offer an attractive alternative with a unique “American” flavor and less crowds, says Mario Tricoci, Founder and CEO of Aparium hotel group, based in Chicago.

“Now is the time to stay in Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, or Kansas City and visit a place you wouldn’t normally think of,” Tricoci told CNN. “They have a different culture. They have this entrepreneurial base. And the food scenes in many of these cities are world-class – they’re as good as the restaurants in New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco.

Prepare your portfolio

Industry insiders say increased demand from international travelers could push up hotel room and vacation rental prices this season, as domestic vacation bookings are already strong in many U.S. markets.

According to the latest data from the rental management software company Guest, the volume of bookings for vacation rentals in November and December is a whopping 377% higher compared to 2020, and 91% higher than pre-pandemic levels in 2019. Meanwhile, the average rental rate per Thanksgiving night is $ 415, a 58% increase from 2019, and average Christmas rates in 2021 are $ 599, which is a huge jump from their 2019 average of $ 332 / night.

All of this means that the long-awaited Thanksgiving family reunion in a luxurious vacation rental, as priceless as it may be, could seriously slash your vacation budget.

Lack of staff

Tourists are finally coming back, but the U.S. hospitality and tourism industry is still struggling to fill millions of jobs for cashiers, receptionists, housekeepers and other dismissed employees who have left the sector to work elsewhere. As a result, customers may notice longer queues for check-in and reduced amenities like daily housekeeping.

In light of these widespread labor shortages, Tricoci encouraged travelers accustomed to the high level of customer service for which the US hotel industry has traditionally been known to manage their expectations, a sentiment shared by many of its peers.

At the same time, he noted that the imminent arrival of foreign guests offers another incentive for the industry to adapt to its staff shortages. “At the end of the day, they travel, they spend money, and it’s up to us to fix the problem,” he told CNN.

Rental cars are also rarer

Visitors who crave a quintessential American road trip (or just an extra layer of protection from coronavirus exposure) may need to curb these plans, thanks to a shortage of rental cars that experts warn could be problematic again this winter, especially in hot destinations like Florida and Hawaii.

Michael Meyer, President of Highway Tariff, which provides real-time car rental rate management information, advises anyone in need of a rental car to book as soon as possible – and prepay if possible, noting that the shortage of car rental supplies course is likely to continue with increased demand from international customers.

“Prepaid is not a 100% guarantee, but most carriers will prioritize these types of rentals over rentals paid on arrival,” Meyer told CNN via email.

Navigating different (and confusing) health regulations and protocols

A key resource for anyone considering travel to the United States: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s county level coronavirus data tracker, which provides useful data on the number of cases in specific counties, as well as local terms and hospitalizations.

However, it is more difficult to understand the different national regulations regarding vaccination and mask requirements. And warrants are also common at the city level – places like New York City, San Francisco and New Orleans have their own vaccination requirements for certain indoor spaces, including restaurants.

In federally regulated spaces like airports and airplanes, masks are mandatory, as well as in regional and local transport like trains and subways. But the actual application in places like hotels is hard to gauge from afar – this is where a travel advisor or agent can be invaluable.

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

“Who took this downtime to renovate and innovate versus who let things deteriorate? I am able to keep up to date with what hotels are really enforcing, as I have access to agencies that are constantly inspecting the sites. It’s one thing to put your policies on your website, and it’s another to put them into practice.

Limited options for testing

Many Europeans are used to rapid, inexpensive (or free) Covid-19 testing, with several testing centers in major cities. And while testing the ability expands in the United States, including in-home options, this is not as convenient, especially in rural areas, as some foreign visitors may be used to. Advance planning is essential to obtain the necessary test results in sufficient time before a return trip.

Additionally, foreign visitors will need to remember that all passengers, including children two years of age and older, entering the United States will also need to test negative. This is a marked difference from many countries in Europe and elsewhere, which generally exempt children under 12.

Also, keep in mind that with the boom in the Delta variant, the EU removed the United States from its safety list in early September, some countries prohibit non-essential travel Of the. As a result, travelers returning from the United States to their home country may be subject to quarantines, additional testing, or other potential complications.

Flexibility remains the key

As celebrated as the announcement of the easing of entry restrictions to the United States has been for the travel industry, its associated complexities underscore a point that industry insiders continue to make: it doesn’t matter where they go. direct, travelers should remain as flexible (booking refundable airline tickets, accommodation and other expenses) and informed (staying on top of the rules) as possible.

“Changes can happen in the blink of an eye,” Michelle Couch-Friedman, executive director of the nonprofit consumer advocacy organization Elliott’s case, says CNN. “While the United States intends, at least now, to allow entry of international travelers vaccinated from November, there is no guarantee that this will happen or for how long. If Covid has taught us anything, it’s to prepare for the unexpected.

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Top image: Travelers collect their luggage upon arrival at Miami International Airport on September 20, 2021. (Photo by Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

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