Current travel restrictions between the United States and Europe that were first introduced by President Donald Trump in March could stay in place for several months, according to senior administration officials.
The restrictions, already put in place for 30 days, has seen flights suspended in an effort to contain the coronavirus pandemic that is currently sweeping the world, causing the aviation industry severe financial implications.
And with the length of the extension as yet unknown many executives in the travel industry are worried that any federal stimulus dollars received may not last, meaning more hotels, airlines and other tourism companies could close for good.
Before coronavirus Canada and Mexico were America’s biggest sources of international tourism – with Europe close behind.
Officials from the White House were keen to point out that countries within the European Union (EU) were also continuing to restrict their travel, not just with America but also within their own continent, in fact President Emmanuel Macron of France has suggested a halt on all international travel for the foreseeable future although the country is planning to lift restrictions within its own country.
Although one Trump administration official said “It makes sense given the circumstances. I don’t think anyone expects them to ease any time soon,” a second confirmed there are no plans in place to allow international travel for the time being.
Under current guidelines, American citizens alongside lawful permanent residents have permission to return back to the United States however they must comply with government screening followed by self-quarantine. Entry to any non-American citizens is banned.
On March 11 an announcement was made from the Oval Office by President Trump announcing the new travel restrictions in response to the rapid spreading of covid-19.
“To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground.”
However, despite Trump using the terms ’30 days’ he issued a further statement that did not confirm any specific timeline, preferring to insist that the restrictions would “remain in effect until terminated by the President.”
It is believed that Alex Azar – Health and Human Services Secretary – is keeping Trump updated every two weeks so he can continue to assess the decision.
Although the original announcement in March only applied to the current 26 members of the EU, Trump was quick to include the United Kingdom and Ireland shortly afterwards.
A recent study by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) shows that there are currently 217 destinations around the world that have some form of travel restrictions in place, with 83% having had restrictions for at least four weeks.
It also revealed that 45% of the destinations studied have either completely closed their borders to tourists, or have at least implemented a partial closedown, while 30 per cent have partially or completely suspended all international flights.
With so much of the world reeling from the effects of covid-19 the UNWTO is calling for leaders around the world to commit to support tourism both during and after the lockdowns.
Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary-General of UNWTO, says the sudden drop in demand for tourism driven companies has seen millions of livelihoods and jobs become at risk, while the advances that had been made in equality and sustainable development are also at risk.
“Tourism has shown its commitment to putting people first. Our sector can also lead the way in driving recovery.”
“This research on global travel restrictions will help support the timely and responsible implementation of exit strategies, allowing destinations to ease or lift travel restrictions when it is safe to do so.”
“This way, the social and economic benefits that tourism offers can return, providing a path to sustainable recovery for both individuals and whole countries.”
With coronavirus confirmed in each American state – and more than 50,000 people losing their lives to the disease – Trump is keen to stop new cases being brought into the country. However it is important to note that the restrictions have not been imposed on the import/export business between America and the European Union, who are currently America’s biggest trading partner.
Since the pandemic was discovered in China towards the end of 2019 the tourism and travel industry has been decimated with travel both domestically and internationally halted.
The White House has been in contact with several trade organizations to discuss the restrictions and are hopeful they will improve public health standards so travel can restart across the country.
Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy at the U.S. Travel Association said, “We have to be in a position to safely open up travel here at home first. Obviously the international traveler is critical, and from an economic standpoint, it’s a huge benefit to the United States – when they come to the U.S. they spend more money and they stay longer.”
“But we can’t put ourselves in a position where we open things up too quickly and then have to close things down.”