In two weeks, vaccinated international visitors are welcome back to the US – Poynter

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Nov. 8 is a big day in the world of travel. It is the day the United States ends its travel ban that began more than a year ago for many countries.

Pandemic travel restrictions barred most visitors from the United Kingdom, European Union, Brazil and other countries. The new reentry requirements will apply to them but will also affect unvaccinated American citizens who are coming home.

The Biden administration announced a new wrinkle to the Nov. 8 rules on Monday. Airlines will collect personal information from all U.S.-bound travelers for contact tracing. Airlines are required to keep the information on hand for 30 days so health officials can follow up with travelers who may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Let’s start with the new rules for crossing into the U.S. from Mexico and Canada. Starting Nov. 8, fully vaccinated foreign nationals can again cross the land borders for nonessential reasons such as tourism or visiting friends and family.

Foreign visitors and U.S. citizens who are unvaccinated will have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within one day, which is a change from the current three days. Vaccinated citizens and visitors will still have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test that was taken within three days of departure.

USA Today shares what the Nov. 8 rules mean for travelers from other countries:

The change will make entering the U.S. possible for travelers from countries currently listed on the U.S. travel ban, which prohibits entry for travelers who have been in any of the regions within the past 14 days. The travel bans took effect in early 2020 and include:

  • China
  • India
  • Iran
  • Brazil
  • South Africa
  • United Kingdom
  • Republic of Ireland
  • The European Schengen area: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City

You can also see the ever-changing list of countries that allow U.S. visitors to enter.

This is a good time to check on the cost of the pandemic on tourism and visitation, and to find out whether bookings are up internationally in anticipation of this change. International visitors stay longer and spend more at destinations than U.S. travelers. Pew Research found:

International tourists comprised about 15% of travel spending in the United States in 2019 though they made just 3% of trips, according to the U.S. Travel Association, a group that advocates for the travel industry.

“International tourism is hugely important,” said Vijay Dandapani, president and CEO of the Hotel Association of New York City. “I cannot overstate the importance.”

Although dollars spent by domestic tourists make up about 60% of total money spent by travelers in the United States, industry experts say that all types of customers need to return — including international tourists and both domestic and international business travelers — for the tourism sector to return to normal.

“From a revenue generation perspective, domestic leisure really can’t make up for the losses in international and business,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president for public affairs and policy at the U.S. Travel Association.

Don’t think of this purely as what’s in it for hotels, casinos and restaurants. Think about the ripple effect of international travel to the U.S. since hotels and convention centers also generate tax income for communities.  Colorado Public Radio points out:

The loss of overseas tourism has cost the state billions in revenue. International travelers spent $1.64 billion in Colorado in 2019, compared to $306,000 in 2020, according to the state’s tourism office.

Some city and state governments are aggressively marketing themselves to international travelers. The New York Times details how New York City is changing its message to travelers:

The agency, NYC & Company, has lowered its forecast slightly to 34.6 million visitors this year, including just 2.8 million from outside the country. That’s just over half of the record-setting totals in 2019, when there were nearly 67 million visitors, including 13.5 million from out of the country, according to tourism agency estimates.

Now, the agency plans to spend $6 million on an international campaign themed “It’s Time for New York City” in eight countries. Already, it is switching the message on billboards in London and a few other cities from “New York City Misses You Too” to “New York City Is Ready for You.”

According to Visit Orlando, international tourists contribute $6 billion annually to Central Florida’s economy. WKMG-TV says Orlando tourism officials are accelerating international marketing efforts right away.

Pre-pandemic, a fourth of the people arriving at San Francisco’s airport were coming in on international flights. KPIX reports:

“In 2019, just to give you an example, 63% of all tourism spending in San Francisco is by international visitors. That has been shut down since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Joe D’Alessandro, president & CEO of SF Travel. “We’re going to be activating a lot of our marketing and sales and promotional programs in Europe and other parts of the world that are opening, saying, hey, San Francisco is ready for you, we’re a safe destination to visit, come on and enjoy the things that you love about this city.”

One more thing. While much of the world is reopening, Australia’s prime minister says foreign tourists won’t be welcomed back there until at least next year. Australia imposed some of the toughest travel policies in the world.

A view of the P4 lab inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology is seen after a visit by the World Health Organization team in Wuhan in China’s Hubei province on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

The battle over whether the National Institutes of Health — headed by Dr. Francis Collins — funded virus studies in Wuhan, China, grew more complicated with the release of an NIH letter that admits to two key points.

  1. NIH funded lab work by EcoHealth Alliance, which does research with partners around the world. EcoHealth worked with the Wuhan Institute of Virology to enhance a bat coronavirus to become potentially more infectious to humans. NIH called it an “unexpected result.”
  2. That work by EcoHealth Alliance violated the terms of its grant conditions. The grant required EcoHealth to report if its research increased the viral growth of a pathogen by tenfold.

But while EcoHealth did not properly report its research in the Chinese lab that some suspect may have been the origin of the COVID-19 virus, Dr. Anthony Fauci says that work, done with NIH funding, could not and did not create the coronavirus that caused the pandemic. Vanity Fair explains:

The letter from the NIH, and an accompanying analysis, stipulated that the virus EcoHealth Alliance was researching could not have sparked the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, given the sizable genetic differences between the two. In a statement issued Wednesday, NIH director Dr. Francis Collins said that his agency “wants to set the record straight” on EcoHealth Alliance’s research, but added that any claims that it could have caused the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic are “demonstrably false.”

EcoHealth Alliance said in a statement that the science clearly proved that its research could not have led to the pandemic, and that it was “working with the NIH to promptly address what we believe to be a misconception about the grant’s reporting requirements and what the data from our research showed.”

This is the latest development in a messy and suspicion-inducing series of inquiries about NIH’s funding and EcoHealth’s lack of disclosures. Again, Vanity Fair’s story reports:

Early last month, The Intercept published more than 900 pages of documents it obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the NIH, relating to EcoHealth Alliance’s grant research. But there was one document missing, a fifth and final progress report that EcoHealth Alliance had been required to submit at the end of its grant period in 2019.

In its letter NIH included that missing progress report, which was dated August 2021. That report described a “limited experiment,” as the NIH letter phrased it, in which laboratory mice infected with an altered virus became “sicker than those infected with” a naturally occurring one.

Without a doubt, this will add more urgency and pressure to get a full accounting of the work that went on at the Wuhan lab, which the Chinese government has blocked.

In this Nov. 3, 2020, file…

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