Will LA see a boost in tourism as the COVID test rule expires?

Will LA see a boost in tourism as the COVID test rule expires?

Will LA see a boost in tourism as the COVID test rule expires?

Los Angeles tourism industry leaders hope the Biden administration’s plan to end the COVID-19 testing requirement for international travelers will boost visits from high-spending foreign vacationers.

The mandate that international air travelers to the US test negative within a day of boarding their flights expires Sunday at 12:01 a.m. Eastern time, according to a senior government official. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity on Friday to preview the formal announcement, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had determined that the rule was no longer needed, but could reinstate it if a troubling problem arises. new variant emerges.

The policy change is big news in Los Angeles, which is among the top three destinations in the US for international travelers, who tend to stay longer and spend more than domestic visitors. Before the pandemic, a burgeoning middle class in China helped fuel a surge of Chinese tourists in Los Angeles, averaging about $6,900 per visit, according to the US Travel Assn., a trade group for the country’s travel industry.

“Our City of Angels is poised to roll out the red carpet for travelers from around the world,” said Adam Burke, president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board, in response to the news.

In 2019, Los Angeles County received 7.4 million international and 42.6 million domestic visitors, according to the board. International travelers spent $11.6 billion that year, about 56% of all tourism spending, even though they represented only about 14% of all visitors. In 2020, the number of visitors dropped to 27.7 million, while tourism spending fell to $10 billion. Tourism experts estimate that the province welcomed about 40 million visitors in 2021.

The Biden administration introduced the testing requirement last year when it moved away from restrictions banning non-essential travel from several dozen countries — most of Europe, China, Brazil, South Africa, India and Iran. It came with a requirement that foreign, non-immigrant traveling to the United States must be fully vaccinated, with only limited exceptions.

The initial mandate allowed those who had been fully vaccinated to show a negative test within three days of travel, and unvaccinated people were required to present a test taken within a day of travel. In November, as the highly transmissible strain of Omicron swept across the world, the Biden administration tightened its rules and required all travelers, regardless of their vaccination status, to take a test within a day of traveling to the US.

Airlines and tourism groups have been urging the administration for months to remove the testing requirement, as it discouraged people from booking international travel. Many other countries have lifted their testing requirements for fully vaccinated travelers and incentivized travelers to increase tourism.

However, the move comes amid an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Los Angeles County.

The local tourism industry has responded positively to the impending policy change.

Danny Roman, who runs Bikes and Hikes LA, a tour company for visitors to the city, struggled so much during the pandemic shutdown that he was forced to add a bike sales and repair shop to his tour business to make ends meet. knots. He hopes the change in US testing policy will bring back the kind of thriving businesses he had in 2019.

Before the pandemic, international visitors accounted for about 60% of its turnover.

“We are beyond excited,” he said. “We hope this kickstarts our summer season as we rely on Europeans, Australians and Canadians to boost home sales.”

“We welcome the millions of travelers ready to come to the US for vacation, business and reunions with loved ones,” Nicholas E. Calio, president and chief executive of Airlines for America, a trade group for the flag carrier industry, said in a statement. statement Friday.

“Today marks another big step forward for the recovery of inbound air travel and the return of international travel to the United States,” Roger Dow, president and chief executive of the US Travel Assn. said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.