WASHINGTON, D.C. — “On behalf of the U.S. travel industry: WELCOME,” the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) tweeted on Nov. 8 as the ban on international air travel to the U.S. was lifted and international flights began landing at U.S. airports. Travelers from Canada and Mexico coming in through land borders also can move freely now, as long as they can provide proof they are fully vaccinated.
“Today marks a monumental and long-awaited day for travelers, long-separated friends and family who can now safely reunite with loved ones,” the USTA tweeted. It also marked a day when suppliers and buyers from 33 nations around the world now can reunite on the show floor at upcoming expos in the U.S. — something trade show executives welcomed as good news for upcoming shows being held within U.S. borders.
“Opening U.S. exhibitions and events to international travelers is a great step forward in the industry’s recovery as the face-to-face marketplace significantly impacts the U.S. and global economies,” International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) President and CEO David DuBois, CMP, CAE, FASAE, CTA, said.
Cathy Breden, CMP, CAE, CEM, CEO of the Center for Exhibition Research (CEIR), added, “The removal of barriers for international inbound travel will have a positive effect on the recovery of the U.S. business-to-business exhibitions industry. International exhibitors and visitors have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to attend and conduct business at trade events in the U.S.”
“The reopening of the U.S. borders to international travelers has been long overdue and very welcome,” David Audrain, CEO and Executive Director of the Society of Independent Show Organizers (SISO), said. “Many shows in the U.S. have significant levels of international participation as both exhibitors and attendees and the forced ban on international entry to the U.S. has made it that much more difficult for many shows to recover quickly. Now that international travel is once again allowed and encouraged, we can expect that this will help many shows here to see much-improved results in 2022.”
The lifting of the ban, instituted at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, appeared to be off to a smooth start, despite recent glitches that made some worry that airlines may not be up to the increase in international travelers on top of a boom in domestic leisure travelers. Among the recent air snafus: America Airlines canceled almost 2,000 flights in October and several airlines struggled earlier this summer to keep up with demand during the height of the U.S. tourism season.
Adding to the airlines’ burdens — which already include staffing shortages — is that the onus for verifying international travelers’ vaccination status is their responsibility under the new requirements. Most have instituted digital tools that enable travelers to upload their vaccination verification and, for those who are exempt from vaccination requirements, negative coronavirus test results. Several also now offer on-site testing at the airport to ease the process of complying with the new U.S. entry rules.
The reopening came a bit late for IMEX America, which was held Nov. 9-11 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. However,most of IMEX’s international suppliers and buyers fly in early to take part in the pre-show educational day, Smart Monday powered by Meeting Professionals International, held Nov. 8, as well as the Events Industry Council’s Hall of Leaders celebration, which was held Nov. 7. That didn’t slow the flow of international buyers and suppliers to the show, which was expected to attract 3,500 suppliers from 155 countries.