(The Center Square) – The United States border reopened to fully vaccinated travelers from 33 countries on Monday, and cities in the Golden State are hoping for an economic recovery after a difficult year and a half for the tourism industry.
Travel restrictions induced by the COVID-19 pandemic have banned foreign travelers from India, China and much of Europe from traveling to the United States for 19 months. During this same period, travel from Canada and Mexico was limited to only workers whose jobs were considered essential, as of March 2020.
Fully vaccinated travelers were welcomed back into the United States on Monday, including at the land borders between Canada and Mexico. Travel officials across the state and nation viewed Monday’s resumption of international travel as a key step towards the recovery.
“After nearly two years of restrictions, the return of international travel is starting in earnest on Monday, when families and long-estranged friends can safely reunite, travelers can explore this incredible country and the United States can reconnect with it. the global community, ”US Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement. “It’s a monumental day for travelers, for the communities and businesses that depend on international tours, and for the US economy as a whole.”
Several cities in California are anxiously awaiting the return of travelers after a long period of restrictions.
Early in the morning on Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported that the line of cars waiting to enter San Diego extended all the way to Tijuana, while many other travelers entered the United States through airports across the country. For San Diego travel managers, the influx is welcome as the city expects years of economic recovery to be ahead.
“The reopening of the border is good news and will help San Diego’s continued efforts to rebuild its tourism industry,” Jennifer Davies, director of external affairs and cultural tourism for the San Diego Tourism Authority, told The Center Square. “While San Diego was one of the top performing destinations in the country in terms of hotel rates and occupancy, we expect our tourism economy will not fully recover until 2024. The tourism industry can rebound.
San Diego tourism lost 20 years of economic gains in employment, economic impact and visitor spending in 2020, according to Davies. Signs of a slow recovery appeared earlier this year, with tourism increasing by more than 50% between January and July.
Daily visits from Mexico made up almost a quarter of daily visits to the city before the pandemic and have declined by an average of 63% each month. According to data from the Tourism Authority, day trippers from Mexico had a regional impact of $ 85 million in July; a low total compared to the $ 428 million regional impact reported in 2019.
Davies said opening the Mexican border will play a “critical role” in reviving the local tourist economy.
Travel officials in other parts of the state were hoping the return of international travel would provide a boost after a year and a half of closures linked to the pandemic.
San Francisco officials have called the return of international travel “vital” to the city’s recovery. The city ranks among the top destinations for international visitors, welcoming a record 2.9 million travelers in 2019.
With the resumption of international travel, authorities hope to see a robust return of travel from Europe. Before the start of the pandemic, the UK and Germany were among the top five international markets for visitor volume, and France, UK and Italy were three of the fastest growing markets , according to a press release from the San Francisco Travel Association.
“With the reopening of the US border and the increase in transatlantic flights to SFO, we expect to see European and British tourist arrivals rebound,” said Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association , in a press release.