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Putting The USA on the UK’s “Green List”

By Susan & Simon Veness

Sitting here in the middle of Florida, we are keenly aware of the lack of the usual visitors from the UK. British accents are very thin on the ground these days.

But there ARE signs of hope for the return of our regular tourism business, and we recently put pen to paper (or, strictly speaking, fingers to keyboard) to outline why for the Telegraph travel section, one of our regular outlets.

The newspaper wanted to know: with the USA’s enhanced vaccination programme making great strides throughout the country, would this put America in with a chance of being included in the government’s imminent “green list” of countries that will be open to UK visitors?

We thought so, and the more we looked into it, the more hopeful things looked for a return to travel by the early autumn, if not possibly even the late summer.

This, of course, would mean extremely good news for Florida First and all its customers, with the chance to release some of that pent-up demand for the Sunshine State which we know is just across the Atlantic from us.

Island Girl Islamorada green list

Image courtesy of Visit Florida

So, for the benefit of Florida First clients and readers of our regular blog, here is the gist of what we wrote for the Telegraph back on April 6, along with a few additional notes and updates. For reference, the CDC is the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and they pretty much control the landscape as regards the current pandemic:

Rochelle Walensky might well be the most important person in America as far as Britain’s transatlantic holiday hopes this year are concerned.

The director of the USA’s CDC issued a watershed report on April 2, indicating that the country’s top scientific health body is preparing to loosen the pandemic-enforced bonds on its $233 billion international tourism industry.

That has put travel companies on both sides of the Atlantic on ‘green’ alert for the possible resumption of holidays to the US after more than a year of Covid-19 interruption.

Walensky’s bulletin didn’t allow for an immediate return to unfettered travel, but it did highlight a significant signpost towards setting the table for a 2021 vacation renaissance – that people who have been fully vaccinated are effectively safe to start travelling again.

Telegraph story Rochelle Walensky green list
This, to us, is the key. If the head of the CDC believes vaccinations are key to resuming normal travel, it stands to reason that other major governments will follow suit. The rationale is sound, and, anecdotally, we think the majority of people agree.
The CDC director’s statement was tempered by a warning of a short-term rise in new virus cases, and non-essential journeys are still not advised, but the increasing speculation is America will declare itself back in the travel business in the near future, and that is sure to put it at the head of the queue for the UK’s new ‘green list’.

Walensky said: “The science shows us that getting fully vaccinated allows you to do more things safely and it’s important for us to provide that guidance even in the context of rising cases. Our guidance is silent on recommending or not recommending fully vaccinated people travel, but it speaks to the safety of doing so.”

Crucially, the CDC also admitted that people who are two weeks past their second vaccine jab no longer need a coronavirus test before or after trips, nor do they need to self-quarantine after travel, unless it is required by a state or local jurisdiction.

This is another key indicator. If the CDC is prepared to waive the need for any virus testing or quarantine period for people who have been vaccinated, let’s make that the gold standard for international travel. If you have had both doses of the vaccine and are 14 days past your second dose, why would anyone insist on these extra – and costly – conditions?
US Travel Association chief executive Roger Dow immediately greeted the statement with approval. He insisted: “The CDC’s new travel guidance is a major step in the right direction that is supported by the science and will take the brakes off the industry that has been hardest hit by the fallout of Covid by far.

“The CDC’s data opens the door much wider for resuming travel, albeit while continuing to carefully follow other health best practices. Acknowledging that vaccinations eliminate the need for testing and quarantines removes a key barrier to domestic travel. Rescinding the recommendation that international visitors must quarantine also is an important incremental step.”

The USTA has been lobbying hard for the government to lift its ban on flights from many countries, especially those from key tourism markets like Britain and Canada, and recently called on President Biden to commit to a May 1 deadline to introduce a plan for allowing overseas visitors to return.

The loss of 81 per cent of the US’s 70 million-plus international visitors in 2020 has had a drastic effect on the country’s unemployment rates, with travel related jobs accounting for fully 65 per cent of all lay-offs last year, along with the biggest chunk of the annual US$233 billion in revenue that inbound US travel generates.

Telegraph Story Roger Dow green list

In fact, these figures could be a grave understatement of the real situation the travel industry finds itself in after more than a year of lockdowns, reductions and limitations. We are finding out just how far the travel and hospitality businesses are interwoven into our business society, and the ripple effects are still being felt far and wide.

Dow added: “The travel industry’s mantra throughout the pandemic has been to be guided by the science, which clearly shows that now is the right time for this move. Meanwhile, it remains important that all eligible Americans get vaccinated as soon as they can in order to more quickly recover the ability for all to travel freely.”

The US surpassed more than 100 million people with at least one dose of vaccine at the weekend, almost 40 per cent of the adult population, while one in five are now fully vaccinated, including more than half of those aged 65 or older.

Those figures, along with the CDC’s latest statement in favour of travel, will significantly strengthen the USTA’s hand in their next negotiations with the White House and act as a powerful argument towards both reviving the country’s travel economy and putting more people back to work.

And, with the UK third in US international visitation, after Canada and Mexico, and typically contributing around US$16 billion in revenue, there is no doubt America’s travel industry partners will be anxious to turn that tap back on as soon as possible.

As of April 15, those figures for adult Americans who have now had at least one vaccination so far are up to almost 124 million, close to 60 per cent of the adult population. Fully 77 million people have been fully vaccinated (including Susan and Simon – yay!).

Florida has a shade over 12 million of those, out of a total population of 22.2 million. With the US now reaching a whopping 3.33 million doses of vaccine every day, the numbers are definitely moving rapidly in favour of resuming international US travel.

The US and UK are now both in the top four worldwide for total number of vaccinations, and are also in the top eight for the percentage of vaccinated adults, according to the latest statistics from the New York Times, which has valiantly kept up a daily tally of Covid-19 cases, and vaccinations, since the pandemic began.

Telegraph story New York green list
US sources are also keenly aware that, with large parts of Europe struggling to keep their virus numbers down and also lagging behind in vaccinations, destinations with solid ‘green’ characteristics stand to benefit.

Adrian Jones, a British travel consultant and former Merlin Entertainments executive and chairman of Visit Orlando in Florida, explained: “I am more bullish that international travel between the UK and the US will recover far quicker than other destinations.

“It is clear the UK and USA are leading the way in vaccination rates and we hope the industry will be supported with a solution to the travel frustration. Guidelines need to be drawn up quickly to address safe travel and ease passenger concerns.

Segway in Florida

That is the story in its entirety, but we feel fairly bullish in saying the numbers – and the science – are all moving in the right direction. The travel industry on both sides of the pond is keenly aware of these key facts, and it is ready to lobby intensively for the lifting of some restrictions in the next couple of months.

The only thing we don’t really know just now is exactly when this is likely to be. But we do suspect we will hear more British accents in Florida once again in the not-too-distant future!

Susan & Simon Veness are the UK’s leading experts on Florida, having written about it for more than 25 years and sold more than half a million copies of their books about Orlando, Disney and the Sunshine State.

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