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U.S. Opens Mexican, Canadian Land Borders To Fully Vaccinated People

After over a year and five months of heavily restricted travel, the United States will begin easing bans by allowing fully vaccinated, nonessential travelers to cross into the country over the Mexican and Canadian land borders.

Details of the new policy were previewed to a number of reporters by senior administration officials, who chose to remain anonymous. The officials gave comments on the opening, saying that the vaccination requirements will ensure safety during travels.

“This is an important step that will further enhance the safety of international travel and the safety of Americans at home. These new vaccination requirements deploy the best tool we have in our arsenal to keep people safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Officials explained that the easing of nonessential traveling across borders will begin in early November, although a date was not specified. Unvaccinated persons can only enter if they have essential purposes.

The second phase of the rules will begin in early January 2022, which will see all travelers, whether essential or nonessential, require vaccinations in order to enter the country.

According to officials, the period between November and January should “provide ample time for essential travelers such as truckers and others to get vaccinated, enabling a smooth transition to this new system.”

While the current travel restrictions end on Oct. 21 as USA Today points out, there will be a new restriction placed leading up until the day in November that phase one begins.

While it isn’t know what vaccines will be permitted at the border crossings, USA Today gave a list of vaccines that are either U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or World Health Organization (WHO) approved, which include Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Sinovac, and Sinopharm.

These new travel rules also only apply to legal travelers. Illegal travelers who attempt to enter into the country will still be in violation of Title 42, which allows the U.S. to expel immigrants without allowing them a chance for asylum.

While the Trump Administration came under scrutiny for their use of Title 42, the Biden Administration has also enforced the law as recently as late September when thousands of Haitians congregated at the Texas border.

Officials explained that travelers via vehicle, rail, and boat will be asked by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for their vaccination status, along with other typically needed admission documents. Officials also stated that COVID-19 testing will not be required for vehicle, sea, or rail assuming the passengers have their vaccination.

The timing of these new protocols were likely influenced by the surrounding countries’ vaccine statuses. One official explained that both Mexico and Canada have high vaccination rates, as well as vaccine availability. Additionally, the official discussed about having both air and land travel approaches be “consistent.”

Right now, 38% of the total population in Mexico is vaccinated, while 52% have had at least one dose. Meanwhile, 72% of Canada’s population have reached full vaccination, while 77% have received at least one dose.

As CNN notes, the U.S. had been extending the restrictions on Canadian and Mexican border travel on a monthly basis since the pandemic accelerated back in March of 2020. Canada had previously announced that vaccinated U.S. citizens would be able to enter the country in early August. However, the U.S. remained noncommittal about border restrictions at that time.

Ironically, despite the United States’ reservations regarding opening Canadian borders to nonessentials, America currently has a lower overall fully vaccinated rate (57%).

Travelers from Mexico and Canada won’t be the only foreigners impacted by new protocols. Yahoo! Finance reported that starting in November, all international travelers must be fully vaccinated and provide a negative COVID-19 test three days before a U.S.-bound flight. Additionally, unvaccinated Americans flying abroad will face stricter requirements.

Australia’s Prime Minister Says International Travelers Won’t Be Welcome Until At Least 2022

Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlined plans for lifting some of Australia’s toughest Covid-19 this week. Part of this outline stated that foreign tourists won’t be welcomed back until at least 2022. The country will instead be prioritizing the return of skilled migrants and students by reopening external borders when they reach a certain rate of vaccination.  

Morrison’s benchmark for reopening will be once 80% of the population aged 16 and older are fully vaccinated. He also announced plans to allow vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents to fly overseas in November; citizens haven’t been able to leave since March 2020. 

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Australia has been reporting the lowest level of immigration since World War II due to these strict travel restrictions. Australian universities and businesses have been struggling to cope with the lack of international students and tourists who typically support these institutions financially. 

Australia’s travel restrictions, however, has allowed life to return to a fairly normal place due to the lack of infection. As of right now some of its biggest cities, like Sydney and Melbourne, are currently experiencing shutdowns due to minor outbreaks. These shutdowns are what has helped keep Australia’s rate of infection low. 

The difficulty with restricting citizens from international travel is that half of Australia’s population was born overseas, or has at least one immigrant parent. Morrison said the priority will be to get migrants and international students back before tourists, but did not specify when he thinks those groups will be allowed back. 

Before the pandemic, the Australian Tourism Export Council made 33 billion American dollars in a year. That sort of revenue could help Australia’s recovery efforts immensely, which is why the Council is hoping international visitors will be able to return by March. 

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As of right now, however, the lack of specificity in the plan to reopen borders has many workers within Australia’s tourism/travel industry worried. 

“International tourist arrivals have to be part of the plan. Even if they’re not the first priority, we’d like to see how this is going to be worked out. There are many businesses that are just hanging on,” said Daniel Gschwind, chief executive of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council.

Morrison said that the “government would work toward a complete quarantine-free travel for certain countries, such as New Zealand, when it is safe to do so,” but did not give a clear timeline as to when that will happen. Any international travelers that are able to travel into Australia currently must quarantine in a hotel for two weeks. 

Australia is currently battling outbreaks of Covid-19 and its variants while rushing to get as many citizens vaccinated as possible. It’s initial vaccine rollout was slow, but is starting to gain some momentum now.

US To Ease Travel Restrictions For Fully Vaccinated International Visitors

Jeff Zients, White House Covid-19 response coordinator, said the new rules will take effect in November to give agencies and airlines enough time to prepare for the influx of travel that will likely come from these new standards.

Airlines Pushback Reopening Flights Between US And Europe Amid Covid Case Surges 

US borders are currently closed to travelers from the European Union (EU) and the UK, and have been that way for over 500 days now. While there hasn’t been a formal announcement as to when these borders will reopen, airlines are beginning to push back the scheduled restart of their London-New York flights. 

Initially flights were set to resume between the two major cities in September, but now airlines are waiting until November. New outlets in Ireland seemed to allude that the US would be lifting its travel ban in time for Labor Day weekend, however, no official announcements have been made to confirm those reports. 

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The EU is currently discussing whether or not they will reopen their borders to US citizens while the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will be keeping land borders between Mexico and Canada closed until at least September 21st. 

Land border restrictions don’t apply to cross-border trade, US citizens.lawful permanent residents, or individuals traveling for school or medical reasons. Travel into Canada is also now allowed for US citizens who are fully vaccinated. 

Jeff Zients is the White House Covid-19 coordinator who recently held a press briefing regarding the reopening of international borders and US travel in general. 

“The interagency working groups are currently developing a policy process, and we will be ready when it is the right time to consider reopening travel. And that’ll be guided, as always, by science and public health.”

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Travel correspondent Simon Calder claims that “in the past 48 hours I have asked a number of travel industry chief executives about when the current presidential proclamation banning arrivals from the U.K. might be lifted. Their answers and predictions range from ‘September’ to ‘no idea’.”

“The main problem now appears to be two-fold: inertia (once draconian rules are imposed, they can be slow to remove), combined with an unwillingness in Washington DC to complicate the difficult domestic situation at a time when the Delta variant is running wild across America, especially in the key tourism state of Florida.”

Henry Smith, chairman of the all-party Future of Aviation group told the press that “the figures are going in the wrong direction for the U.S. and I don’t really see any appetite in the U.S. to open up sooner rather than later. It is slightly different for the U.S. because they have such a big domestic market, which means international travel makes up a smaller proportion of the industry’s revenues.”

The US currently allows entry to any US citizen and their dependents as well as anyone who has spent 14 days in a country not listed on the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s prohibited list.

Demand For Air Travel Dropping Exponentially As Delta Variant Continues To Spread 

The demand for air travel has begun to plummet as the delta variant of the Covid-19 virus continues to spread rapidly. According to reports from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), cancellations have been on the rise this month alongside less passenger loads and lower air fares. 

TSA reported that 1.7 million people were screened nationwide this Tuesday, the lowest number of air travelers in nearly two months. Southwest Airlines also claimed to see an uptick in cancellations according to their recent financial filings. 

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Southwest is predicting that the surge in cancellations will continue into September should the US not get the virus and its variants more under control. Many major US airlines were looking forward to the coming months due to an overall decrease in cases and spreading of the virus, but the delta variant has them all taking on a new attitude. 

Travel booking site Hopper claimed that the domestic demand for travel hasn’t been this low since after the fourth of July. 

“What we saw was that mid-July was one of our best booking weeks ever, so the domestic bookings were really strong in mid July, but on the domestic front we have seen bookings be pretty flat since then,” Hopper economist Adit Damodarn said.

Damodarn explained how international bookings have been hit even harder due to the increase in spreading and lack of proper vaccine rollout in many international countries. 

“I think there’s a lot going on here that’s making people think twice about traveling. One of the big concerns for people going internationally is the chances of even if you’re vaccinated or getting an infection seem to be going up.”

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“It may not be severe, but it does mean that you might not be able to come back into the U.S. for some time just because of the testing requirement. So with that I think you’re scaring some people off. And then, of course, we have the just general concern about getting sick, going to places where there is more virus,” Founder of crankyflier.com Brett Snyder said. 

Hopper also noted that more fliers have been purchasing “cancel-for-any-reason” flight insurance since the variant began spreading more rapidly in July. 

“The rate in which people are purchasing flight insurance is up about 33% when compared to last month. So I think what we’re seeing here is a little bit of hesitancy.”

Average air booking prices are currently down $76 on average as well. 

“We’re seeing a significant drop in domestic and international airfare. It’s a little bit more than the seasonality that we have seen in prior years, and so that would suggest to us that there’s both the seasonal variation coming off the peak summer travel season, as well as the impact of the delta variant,” Damodarn said.

England, Scotland, And Northern Ireland Loosen Travel Restrictions For Vaccinated Americans 

Fully vaccinated Americans can now visit England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland without quarantining beginning next week. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps made the announcement on Twitter this week. 

“We’re helping reunite people living in the US and European countries with their family and friends in the UK.” 

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Initially the updated requirements were just for individuals in the US and UK, but Scotland and Northern Ireland said they would also be joining England in waiving their 10-day isolation requirement for fully vaccinated individuals from the European Union and US. 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, announced this week that they recommend all US citizens remain in the country and don’t travel to the UK specifically due to rising Covid case numbers in both nations. 

Visitors to England, Northern Ireland, and Scotland will still be subject to Covid testing upon their arrival. Pre-departure testing as well as testing upon arrival will still be enforced, and vaccinated Americans must provide proof of US residency as well as proof of vaccination. 

American travelers must also fill out a patient-tracker form so that authorities are able to contact them should someone they traveled with test positive. Travelers returning to the US must also show a negative Covid result in order to board a US-bound international flight. 

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“Given where we are today … with the delta variant, we will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point for a few reasons. The more transmissible delta variant is spreading both here and around the world.”

“Driven by the delta variant, cases are rising here at home, particularly among those who are unvaccinated and appear likely to continue in the weeks ahead,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a press briefing Monday. 

United Airlines announced that it would have six daily flights between the US and London starting in August. The airline plans to resume additional flights in the coming months as well. 

“Today’s announcement is yet another major milestone in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic with the opening of one of the most important markets from the U.S.” said Patrick Quayle, United’s vice president of international network and alliances, in a news release.

Tori Emerson Barnes, the executive vice president of public affairs for the U.S. Travel Association trade group, urged U.S. leaders to “follow the U.K.’s lead and set a timeline to reopen its borders to travelers. We encourage them to start with vaccinated travelers from the U.K., E.U. and Canada. The reality is there’s no difference between a vaccinated American and those vaccinated in the U.K., the E.U. and Canada.”

US Will Not Lift Covid-19 Travel Restrictions Amid Spreading Of Delta-Variant

The United States has no plans to lift any of the existing travel restrictions put in place to protect from the spreading of Covid-19 and its much more contagious Delta variant. 

White House Officials told the media this week that this means the long-running travel restrictions that have barred a lot of the world’s populations from coming into the US will not be lifted anytime soon. 

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“Given where we are today with the Delta variant, the United States will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point. Driven by the Delta variant, cases are rising here, particularly among unvaccinated citizens.”

US airlines and the tourism industry in general has been hoping that this summer could help rebuild what was lost last year when everyone was forced to stay home. Airlines have been lobbying with the White House for the past few months in order to find new and safe ways to get Americans to travel more this summer. 

Currently the US bars any non-US citizen from coming into the country if they have been to the United Kingdom, 26 Schengen nations in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran or Brazil within the past 14 days. 

Last week, the US Homeland Security Department claimed that US land borders with Canada and Mexico will also remain closed to non-essential travel until at least August 21st. Canada has said that it would begin allowing fully vaccinated Americans into the country after August 9th. 

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U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Rochelle Walensky said Thursday the “seven-day average of new cases in the United States was up 53% over the previous week. The Delta variant, which was first found in India, now comprises more than 80% of new cases nationwide and has been detected in more than 90 countries.”

“The administration understands the importance of international travel and is united in wanting to reopen international travel in a safe and sustainable manner.”

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Friday said international travel is “something we would all like to see — not just for tourism, but for families to be reunited. However, we rely on public health and medical advice on when we’re going to determine changes to be made.”

The Biden Administration has been in talks with US airlines in recent weeks about how to establish an international contact tracing program for passengers before they lift any restrictions. As of right now the CDC has imposed a mandatory Covid-19 testing rule for nearly all international air travelers.

Start-Up Company Planning Network Of ‘Hotel Sleeper Trains’ Throughout Europe

Midnight Trains is a new French start-up that has recently announced plans to build a network of overnight train services throughout Europe in the near future. The goal is to get the network up and running by 2024; ideally when the Covid-19 pandemic will be a thing of the past and travel has resumed. 

Maui Set To Impose New Hotel Tax Due To Influx Of Tourists 

The Hawaiian island of Maui has announced that they will now be collecting a hotel tax from all tourists staying there in order to help them deal with the influx of tourists while recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The new 3% tax will be collected from all individuals staying at a hotel or short-term rental on the island. According to the Associated Press, this tax comes after lawmakers in the state passed a bill that would change how Hawaii allocated tax revenue to the different counties. 

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Before this new tax was implemented, the state would collect a 10% hotel tax to be distributed to each county. According to Hawaii News Now, the bill is also cutting Hawaii Tourism Authority’s budget by 24%. Maui County Council Chair Alice Lee told the media outlet that this change would help the tourism industry in Hawaii thrive overall as the world begins to reopen more. 

“This tax will help tremendously. Instead of $23 million, we’ll probably receive in the neighborhood of $50 to $70 million,” she explained. 

The push for Hawaii’s tourism sector to find new ways to gain more revenue comes as a major increase in travel, and travel plans, have emerged, especially in Maui. Maui’s Mayor Michael Victorino has reached out to certain airlines to start bringing fewer tourists to the island, as they are starting to become overwhelmed with wealthy travelers who want to escape. 

“We don’t have the authority to say stop, but we are asking the powers to be to help us,” Victorino said to the AP.

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In May 2021, more than 630,000 visitors flew to Maui. In May 2019, before the pandemic, Maui received about 847,000 tourists, so the state is currently witnessing almost pre-pandemic levels of travel while the US is still very much battling this virus and its variants. 

Maui is also one of the easiest places to travel to currently, especially for American citizens. Last week the state removed their requirement for travelers to be tested for Covid-19 before coming to the island; this stipulation only exists for fully vaccinated domestic travelers. 

Those who are not vaccinated still have to provide proof of a negative test from a “trusted medical partner site” in order to skip the mandatory quarantine period once they get to the island itself. 

Hawaii has also recently expanded their partnership with the company Clear’s Health Pass, which offers vaccinated individuals with an easy and digital way of proving their vaccination status to make travel easy. 

Governor David Ige also announced that the state plans to lift all of its Covid-19 restrictions once Hawaii reaches a 70% vaccination rate. Currently 65% of all residents have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and 58% are fully vaccinated. 

Summer Vacation

The Most Popular Vacations People Are Booking For 2022 

As more individuals receive their Covid-19 vaccinations throughout the world, many are planning their first big trips for when the world really begins to return to a sense of normalcy. 2022 is already seeing an influx in flight bookings under the assumption that by that point, more of the world will be vaccinated and Covid will be more obsolete. 

Here’s a list of some of the most popular destinations individuals are booking trips to for next year:

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Napa Valley, California: Many individuals are looking to book trips that will give them an experience, not just a simple resort vacation. After struggling throughout the pandemic and one of the deadliest wildfire seasons of the past decade, California in general is ready to open its doors for tourists again. Napa Valley is specifically offering a ton of different wine tasting resort packages that will give individuals the opportunity to plan their perfect vacation in wine country. By 2022, the Four Season Napa Valley will also be open and running, marking the first time a Four Seasons winery will be in Northern California. 

Paterson, South Africa: Speaking of experiences, the safari expedition’s offered at the Kruger National Park in South Africa is unlike any other safari experience out there. The Shamwari Private Game Reserve, in Paterson, South Africa, offers two daily game drives which allow individuals to digitally and safely search for wildlife native to the area. A majority of the wild animals in the game have left the actual reservation area due to colonization and poaching, however, this new experience will allow the reserve to rebuild what was lost while continuing to educate the world about the magic of wildlife. 

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Loire Valley, France: The Hotel Château du Grand Lucé is an hour away from Paris and has been open to the public since 2019, however, the property has existed since 1760. This French chateau that formerly housed royalty can now become your own personal vacation palace while you endure unforgettable experiences like biking through the village and picnicking in the flower-filled exotic gardens. 

Perez Zeledon, Costa Rica: For those looking for more of the beachside resort vibe without all the crowds, look no further than Perez Zeldon, Costa Rica. This 150 acre landscape includes a coffee farm, tribal village, lush rainforest, and plenty of white sandy beaches to rest and recharge on. 

Sardinia, Italy: This is one of the most popular beach destinations in Italy to date. Sardinia is known for its white sand beaches and captivating turquoise waters. There are a multitude of hotel options that offer complete serenity and privacy. All restaurants and shops are also within a walking distance depending on where you stay. 

Kyoto, Japan: Kyoto has become one of the most iconic Asian city destinations for tourists. They’re known for their luxury hotels that are bustling with Japanese culture. Visitors can hike to take a dip in some hot springs, enjoy all the local cuisine, and take in all of the culture with a multitude of historical sights to see.