In a move celebrated across the wider travel industry, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has lifted its requirement for travelers to test negative for Covid-19 before returning home to the United States from abroad.
It’s the culmination of a once-strong policy that had become extremely controversial as pandemic-era measures were relaxed around most of the rest of the world.
Travelers had been required to take a test and receive a negative within just 24 hours of their return flight home to the United States.
Now, travelers can simply get on a plane and return home, without having to spend what had been sometimes hours getting tested on their trips.
It was a policy that had particularly detrimental ramifications in the Caribbean, which had to quickly set up region-wide testing apparatus aimed at returning US travelers.
The move is already being widely hailed in the Caribbean tourism industry.
“Since the announcement this morning, we are already hearing feedback from travel advisors, as well as American travelers, who are happy about this protocol being lifted in the U.S,” said Lorine Charles-St. Jules, CEO of Saint Lucia Tourism Authority. “The lifting of Covid testing requirements for international will absolutely have a positive impact on international tourism, as well as U.S. tourism. This is especially true for travelers who may have been deterred from traveling internationally because of worries about securing tests in time in a foreign country. While most countries, like Saint Lucia, have made it seamless to schedule Covid testing before departing for the U.S., there is always uncertainty in travel. Eliminating the testing requirement could spur further growth in international travel for Saint Lucia, the Caribbean, and all international destinations that appeal to the American market.”
To its credit, the Caribbean did just that, mobilizing testing infrastructure across much of the region at an impressively large scale.
But the test was still a deterrent for many travelers, who did not want to risk getting stuck in a quarantine in a foreign country for a week or two or longer.
More importantly, though, it was also largely unfair to the region, which had already taken great risk to relaunch its tourism industry — the engine of the Caribbean economy — but was now being faced with providing testing infrastructure and dealing with stranded travelers who would have otherwise returned home to their own healthcare systems in the US.
“We are thrilled to see the end of the CDC’s inbound testing rule, which has been standing in the way of our industry’s recovery for too long,” said Zane Kerby, president and CEO of the American Society of Travel Advisors, which had been one of the biggest proponents of removing the requirement.
Kerby had previously told Caribbean Journal that the inbound testing requirement was having a “chilling” effect on Caribbean travel.
Indeed, the ASTA has been engaged in what it called a “multi-layered advocacy campaign” to get to this point, including direct lobbying of Congress and officials in the administration of US President Joe Biden.
“We commend the Biden Administration for taking this long-overdue step and thank ASTA members across the country for their hard work in helping get this across the finish line,” Kerby said. “While plenty of challenges remain in terms of rebuilding the travel agency business, today is a great day.”
With continued moves to remove pandemic travel testing requirements across the region (islands like Bonaire, Jamaica, Curacao and Grenada have already completely lifted their testing rules), it means more and more Caribbean vacations are just like they were before the onset of the pandemic.
In other words, you get on a plane, you travel, and you come home. Just that simple.