New York/Miami/Ciudad Juarez/Tijuana, Nov 8 (EFE).- The United States on Monday eased coronavirus restrictions that had prevented non-essential travel by visitors from 33 countries, most of them located in Europe.
The lifting of that measure led to more crowding at airports, although no significant flight delays were reported.
Those international tourists have to provide proof that they are fully vaccinated prior to boarding an airplane and show documentation of a negative PCR test from a sample taken within three days of travel to the US.
The policy shift by President Joe Biden’s administration is expected to provide a lift to a battered travel industry.
American Airlines, the biggest airline in the US and worldwide by fleet size, had more than 150 international inbound flights arriving in the US on Monday, including 20 trans-Atlantic flights.
It will operate more than 200 international flights per day the rest of the month and nearly 300 daily international flights by the start of 2022.
A sizable number of international travelers arrived Monday at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, either for a tourist visit or to reunite with family.
“Finally! We’ve been waiting for months and months,” Sarab Alasadi, a dentist from Paris who had not seen her sister in two years, told Efe after arriving at JFK airport.
Both Alasadi and a young female international traveler named Kim said the immigration process flowed smoothly and quickly after their arrival.
The lifting of restrictions has been felt immediately by hotel operators in New York City, with Bernardo Naval, director of the RIU Plaza hotel in Times Square, telling Efe that the number of reservations from European countries has risen sharply.
Elsewhere, the Miami International Airport’s communications director, Greg Chin, told Efe he expects an increase of 5,000 passengers on Monday compared to seven days ago, with European arrivals accounting for the lion’s share.
That airport saw a big uptick in arrivals earlier in the year relative to 2020 and those numbers are to set to climb even higher.
A total of 1.29 million travelers arrived in August, up 552.3 percent from the same month of last year, when the coronavirus crisis was at its peak in Florida.
According to the US Travel Association, declines in international visitation resulted in nearly $300 billion in lost export income between March 2020 and October 2021 and also led to the loss of more than 1 million American jobs.
The US is the world’s third-most visited country in numbers of visitors (77 million in 2019, behind France and Spain), but it is first in terms of international tourism receipts (with $214 billion in 2019), according to World Tourism Organization figures.
In addition to the restrictions on air travel from the UK, the European Schengen Area countries, China, Brazil, India, Ireland, Iran and South Africa, the US’s land borders with Canada and Mexico also had been closed to non-essential travel prior to Monday.
In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Carlos Miranda was one of the first to cross the border into El Paso, Texas.
“I’m going shopping to buy toys and clothing. We’ll stay tonight with a family member who’s waiting for us and early tomorrow we’ll go shopping.”
Norma, a young woman from Tijuana, located across the border from San Diego, California, also said she was eager to shop for items unavailable in her city.
The reopening of the US-Mexico border comes at a time when a 4,000-person migrant caravan is heading northward through Mexico.