As an increasing number of travellers in the United States take to the skies, it is expected that with a rising percentage of vaccination in the country and a government that is working at a war-footing pace, the summer of ’21 could signal the turnaround in travel for the U.S.
As per the latest figures released by U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA), more than 1.5m travellers took a flight on 21 March 2021 compared to 0.5 million travellers on the same day in 2020. (2.2 million passengers flew on 21 March 2019). This marks a tremendous turnaround in the U.S. travel industry as more American residents are getting vaccinated with demand & advanced bookings starting to rise with corresponding spikes in prices expected as we head closer to summer.
Vaccination Speed in the USA
This week the U.S. announced that 90% of American adults will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines by 19 April. More than 15% (52.6million) of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and 28% (95million) of the U.S. population has received at least one dose, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. President Joe Biden doubled his original vaccination goal to reach 200 million shots in his first 100 days in office.
Translating goals to actions, the U.S. is ramping up vaccine production at breathtaking speed. Johnson & Johnson’s game-changing single-shot vaccine approved in late Feb 2021 delivered 4 million doses last week to the U.S. government allocation. This is planned to be increased to 11 million J&J doses every week from next week onwards.
Reuters reported last night that Pfizer has boosted its production by doubling its batch sizes and shortening production time.
U.S. Government Discusses Border Control Relaxations for Summer 2021
All indications point to the Biden-Harris Administration relaxing the inbound international travel from the E.U. & U.K. by mid-May. In a CNBC report, senior administration officials quoted that “There is going to be a sea change in mid-May when vaccines are more widely available to everyone.”
Major U.S. airlines, travel groups and trade organisations representing the aviation and travel industry have urged the government to develop a risk-based, data-driven roadmap to rescind inbound international travel restrictions by as early as 1 May 2021. This would allow non-US tourists to enter the country before the summer travel season. A universal testing requirement for all inbound travellers with exemptions for vaccinated passengers combined with current mandatory masks and physical distancing would ensure a significant recovery in travel demand from July 2021.
Pockets of Positive News in EU and the Caribbean
Across the Atlantic pond and looking into Europe, the expectations for a booming summer find pockets of hope. Despite the numerous waves of the pandemic that have taken a toll on the travel industry in Europe, well-established hotels on the continent have seen a surge in bookings for domestic travel with reports of 80-100% occupancy for summer 2021. Iceland opened its borders for vaccinated travellers from the middle of March. Greece has announced plans for vaccinated travellers to visit the country from mid-May onwards.
Most countries in the ever beautiful Caribbean have reopened for international tourism, with similar protocols in place for testing, safety and social distancing. Countries such as Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada and Jamaica are open. In Asia, apart from Dubai, the Maldives, Seychelles, and by July – Phuket, no other region or country has announced serious leisure travel plans.
Based on the current vaccine production and dose administration, the residents of the U.S. will become one of the first major countries to achieve maximum immunity and thus be the flag bearers for international travel in the coming months. By virtue of the speed of herd immunity and spending power, the vaccinated U.S. resident could very well become the most sought after traveller from June 2021 onwards. Simultaneously, the United States can find itself as the number one destination for vaccinated travellers. ◼
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© This article was first published online in Mar 2021 – World Travel Magazine.