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Will LA see an increase in tourism when the COVID testing rule expires?

Los Angeles tourism industry leaders hope the Biden administration’s plan to end its COVID-19 testing requirement for international travelers will boost visits among high-spending foreign vacationers.

According to a senior administration official, the mandate that international air travelers to the United States test negative within a day of boarding expires Sunday at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity on Friday to preview the official announcement, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had determined the rule was no longer needed but could reinstate it if a troubling new variant emerged.

The policy change is big news for Los Angeles, which has ranked among the top three U.S. destinations for international travelers, who typically stay longer and spend more than domestic visitors. Before the pandemic, a burgeoning middle class in China helped fuel a rise in the number of Chinese tourists to Los Angeles, who spent an average of about $6,900 per visit, according to US Travel Assn., a trade group for the country’s travel industry.

“Our City of Angels is ready to roll out the red carpet for travelers around the world,” said Adam Burke, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board, in response to the news.

In 2019, Los Angeles County welcomed 7.4 million international visitors and 42.6 million domestic visitors, according to the council. International travelers spent $11.6 billion that year, about 56% of all tourism spending, even though they made up only about 14% of all visitors. In 2020, the number of visitors fell to 27.7 million, with tourism spending plunging to $10 billion. Tourism experts estimate the county welcomed around 40 million visitors in 2021.

The Biden administration implemented the testing requirement last year as it moved away from restrictions that banned non-essential travel from several dozen countries – most of Europe, China, Brazil , South Africa, India and Iran. This came with a requirement that non-immigrant foreign adults traveling to the United States be fully immunized, with some exceptions.

The original mandate allowed those who were fully vaccinated to present proof of a negative test within three days of travel, and those unvaccinated had to present a test taken within a day of travel. In November, as the highly transmissible variant of Omicron swept the world, the Biden administration toughened the rules and required all travelers, regardless of their vaccination status, to test themselves within a day of traveling to the United States. United.

Airlines and tour groups have been lobbying the administration for months to scrap the testing requirement, saying it discourages people from booking international travel. Many other countries have lifted their testing requirements for fully vaccinated and boosted travelers in a bid to increase tourism.

The move, however, comes amid an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Los Angeles County.

Reaction to the impending policy change has been positive in the local tourism industry.

Danny Roman, who runs Bikes and Hikes LA, a tourism agency for visitors to the city, struggled so much during the pandemic shutdown that he was forced to add a bike sales and repair shop to his tourism business to make ends meet. He hopes the change in testing policy in the United States will bring back the booming business he had in 2019.

Before the pandemic, international visitors accounted for around 60% of its business.

“We are beyond thrilled,” he said. “We hope this kicks off our summer season as we depend on Europeans, Australians and Canadians to drive home sales.”

Industry representatives also expressed their approval. “We look forward to welcoming the millions of travelers who are ready to come to the United States for vacation, business and reunion with loved ones,” Nicholas E. Calio, president and CEO of Airlines for America.

“Today marks another major step forward in resuming inbound air travel and the return of international travel to the United States,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of US Travel Assn., in a press release.

The Associated Press was used to compile this report.


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Post expires at 7:37pm on Tuesday June 21st, 2022