Travel groups want to remove testing requirement to enter US | Economic news

By DAVID KOENIG, AP Airlines Editor

DALLAS (AP) — Airlines and tour groups are pushing to eliminate the government requirement that international travelers must provide a negative test for COVID-19 before boarding a plane bound for the United States.

They believe the testing rule discourages people from booking international travel. They cite the UK, which eliminated a similar rule last month.

Airlines for America, a trade group for the nation’s largest carriers, was circulating a letter Wednesday among other travel associations urging the Biden administration to end the testing requirement.

Meanwhile, another major tourism industry group is calling for tax breaks for conventions and trade shows, which it says will help revive business travel.

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U.S. domestic leisure travel has returned to pre-pandemic levels, but business and international travel has not fully rebounded. From the start of 2020 to last December, travel spending in the United States fell by a cumulative $730 billion, and many jobs in the sector did not return, according to the US Travel Association.

Last month, the UK dropped a requirement for vaccinated travelers to take a COVID-19 test before boarding a flight to the country. Travel groups are calling on the Biden administration to similarly relax current U.S. rules, saying it would boost international flights.

Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice-president of the travel association, said people are reluctant to book international trips if there is a risk they will be stranded and unable to return home if tested. positive for the virus.

Industry officials also note that airlines saw an increase in bookings after the US lifted country-specific travel bans in November, and predict the same will happen if the US drop their pre-departure test requirement.

The test rule does not apply to flights within the United States

Government figures suggest outbreaks of COVID-19 caused by new variants of the virus have played a bigger role than testing requirements in discouraging travel.

Since a low point in April 2020, the number of people traveling to, from or within the United States compared to 2019 increased every month until last August and September, when the delta variant hit.

The recovery briefly picked up, then stalled in December and retreated in January, as the omicron variant pushed US COVID-19 cases to new highs.

Separately, US Travel Association executives said they were talking to members of Congress about tax changes they said would boost business travel.

The group requests a tax credit equal to 50% of the costs borne by the organizers and sponsors for congresses and trade fairs. A bill containing the idea has foundered since it was introduced in the House nearly a year ago.

Since the start of the pandemic, many major conferences have been canceled, moved online, or offered online and in-person options. Barnes, the head of the travel association, said event organizers and small businesses need incentives to resume in-person events and business meetings.

The group also wants to reinstate a break that was removed in the tax cuts law that former President Donald Trump and the then-Republican-led Congress approved in 2017. That law removed the $50 deduction. % for business expenses considered entertainment.

David Koenig can be contacted at www.twitter.com/airlinewriter

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