Department of Commerce investing $750 million in travel and tourism

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CDC Issues New Travel Advice , for Over 120 Countries.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its travel guidance for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers June 7.The updated advice moved 33 countries, including Iceland and Singapore, into the lowest risk category.The CDC has determined threat levels based on the number of COVID-19 cases in each country.The agency recommends thatpeople get vaccinated before traveling, but for those who remain unvaccinated, .the guidance varies based on each country's threat level, with level 4 being the highest risk

More than a year since travel in the U.S. tamped down dramatically, the U.S. Department of Commerce is pledging a $750 million investment in travel and tourism, according to Gina Raimondo, department secretary, who spoke recently at a virtual forum organized by the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

Also at the forum, Chris Thompson, CEO of Brand USA, which promotes international tourism to the U.S., said the organization plans its first marketing campaign since the pandemic started, which will begin Aug. 1 with the message that this country is ready for tourists to visit.

Raimondo said she is hopeful for a reasonably robust summer for leisure travel but added, “There’s a long way to go.” She said she wants the federal money to be used flexibly “because tourism is local and has local needs” with some states perhaps spending it on convention centers, others on recreation and still others on marketing.

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The secretary also said the administration is working very hard to get Congress to pass the American Jobs Plan, which she called “very relevant’ to travel as it involves infrastructure, jobs, training, parks and clean water – all very relevant to travel.

“I look forward to working with the industry,” said Raimondo. “I know better days are ahead for leisure and business travel.”

As for business travel, Raimondo said she is working as an advocate to open key travel corridors to business travelers. She said there are safe ways to travel, particularly for those who are vaccinated.

“I will do everything I can,” she said, “to revitalize domestic and international business travel through agencies that report to me.” She said easing travel restrictions is a top priority for her and and the Biden administration.

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EU Signals Readiness , to Lift Travel Ban on US.A formal recommendation was issued by the EU to lift the ban on travelers from the U.S. on June 18.While the recommendation is not legally enforceable.it allows the 27 EU member nations to create their own restrictions.Several countries in the EU rely on tourism to maintain their economies, including Italy and Portugal.The news was welcomed by government officials who pushed for further easing of travel restrictions. .We also need the other direction — that flying to the United States will be possible again, Andreas Scheuer, German Transport Minister, via 'The Washington Post'.EU officials are hopeful the bloc of nations will reach herd immunity in the coming weeks.EU Parliament announced earlier this week that quarantine restrictions would soon be replaced by a digital vaccination certificate system

Thompson said he is more optimistic than at any time since the start of the pandemic and “encouraged by some conversations I have had.” While he said many of the restrictions on travel to the U.S. from abroad are out of Brand USA’s control, he added that “things are happening.” While Europe outside the U.K. has lagged as far as dealing with the pandemic, Thompson said proof of vaccination will be critical and “we will have to settle on something standard on that front.”

When it does begin marketing, said Thompson, Brand USA will seek to show potential travelers in other countries that Americans themselves are getting out and about. “As international visitors see us traveling, " he said, “they will see that it is safe to do so.” He said it is critical to get the land borders open to Mexico and Canada because 50% of the 80 million annual international visitors to the U.S. are from those two countries while the U.K. represents the largest long-haul market.

He said Brand USA will be inviting influencers from around the world to come in and experience the U.S., “something that can happen now.” He continued, “We want to fuel aspiration and dreams.” The domestic return to travel, said Thompson, has been more powerful than expected and he expects the same for international travel once it resumes.

Sixty percent of the travel industry economy, said Thompson, is non-leisure, including meetings and events. He said that smaller groups are returning, and many major shows are going live, including Brand USA Travel Week, scheduled for London in October; and U.S. Travel Association’s IPW, set for Las Vegas in September.

Thompson pointed to New Orleans as a role model for restarting events. He said that industry representatives had taken public officials into meeting spaces to show how they can be safe and healthy.

Brand USA, said Thompson, has seen its source of funding collapse. That source is the ESTA (electronic system for travel authorization) fees paid by applicants for visas from the visa waiver countries. However, he said, in 2019 the organization had not been sure of being renewed, so it had built up reserves that enabled it to survive the crisis. It was, however, renewed early in 2020.