Travel agency association criticizes omicron travel bans: Travel Weekly

ASTA President and CEO Zane Kerby criticized the Biden administration’s decision to restrict travel from certain southern African countries in an attempt to prevent the spread of the omicron variant of Covid-19 .

“Country-specific travel bans are too blunt an instrument and often create unintended but substantial economic and societal damage,” Kerby said in a statement Tuesday. “This return to country-specific bans, coming just weeks after the United States reopened its borders to fully vaccinated travelers, is deeply frustrating and comes just as the industry’s recovery gathered momentum. . “

Kerby called on the Biden administration and other governments around the world to lift country-specific bans “as soon as possible.”

The ASTA chief was joined by others in the industry calling for the removal of country-specific bans.

“The Covid variants are concerning, but the border closures have not prevented their presence in the United States as vaccinations have been shown to be incredibly durable,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and health. US Travel policies, in a press release.

“This is why the US travel industry is such a strong supporter of the vaccine for everyone,” added Barnes. “With a vaccine and testing required to enter the United States, we continue to believe that assessing an individual’s risk and health status is the best way to welcome qualified international travelers to the United States. United. “

Kerby also pointed out the United States’ “robust system of masking, testing and vaccination requirements”, which “avoids the need for country-specific bans whenever a new variant of Covid appears, which is inevitable ”.

The European Tourism Association and the European Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators recently urged governments to avoid restricting travel across Europe.

“Considering that 76.6% of the adult EU population is now vaccinated at 76.6% and that community transmission is already high in most EU member states, measures to limit border crossings would not apply. effect no benefit to public health, but would negatively impact local economies, ”the groups said. in a report.

Travelers worry more about restrictions

Alex Sharpe, President and CEO of Signature Travel Network, said on Tuesday travelers appeared more concerned about travel restrictions than omicron itself.

Concerns surround how governments will respond to the variant and whether travelers will find themselves stranded somewhere, he said.
While some customers are likely concerned with the variant, Sharpe said, “They weren’t the ones booking right now. They were the ones booking for Q3 2022 and beyond.

“But those who want to travel always want to travel,” he said.

Covid relief is still needed

Kerby also urged US government officials to provide targeted assistance to severely affected businesses, such as the ASTA membership base, travel agencies.

“As we have said repeatedly, when government action taken in the interest of protecting public health has a disproportionately negative impact on a specific industry, as is the case here, logic dictates that the government is providing targeted assistance to the most severely affected businesses, ”Kerby said.

Specifically, he encouraged Congress to pass the Save Act, which would include travel agencies in the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program. He also called for the reinstatement of the employee retention tax credit for the fourth quarter.

Willie R. Golden