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Travel industry CEOs push to end COVID test mandate for re-entry to the U.S.

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Yahoo Finance's Rick Newman discusses how travel industry leaders are pushing to end the COVID-19 test requirement for return travel to the U.S.

Video transcript

BRAD SMITH: And shifting over to the travel industry, the Biden administrate-- the Biden administration, excuse me, faces pressure from travel leaders to put an end to the COVID-19 testing requirements for travelers. For more on this, let's bring in Yahoo Finance's Rick Newman. Rick, what can you tell us?

RICK NEWMAN: I've been talking to some travel leaders about this. And they are pretty optimistic that the Biden administration will end this rule that requires Americans traveling overseas or anybody actually traveling into the United States. Whether you're American traveling back or a foreigner coming here, that role requires you to get a negative COVID test within 24 hours of your departure.

So for Americans who want to travel abroad and then return obviously, it's an irritant, because if you test positive, then you're stuck overseas. But it's a much bigger deal for foreign travelers who want to come to the United States, because if you test positive, then you can't even get here.

And you've presumably prepaid for a big part of your trip, and then suddenly your whole itinerary is wrecked. The US Travel Association says that the decline in foreign travel to the United States is costing something like $160 billion per year in lost revenue here in the United States, because, of course, travel to the United States by foreigners is big business.

So I think the travel industry and a lot of other big companies are now making the case to the Biden administration. Look, this is important for the economy, an important sector of the economy here in the United States to get more foreign travelers here. And by the way, we no longer have the mask mandate here in the United States. Most other countries do not have this requirement to get into the countries. So again, travel leaders say they think there's a good chance the Biden administration will end this rule by summer.

JULIE HYMAN: Is it just up to the Biden administration, though? I mean, what about all these other countries that have their own regulations for you coming in?

RICK NEWMAN: Yeah, it is just up to the Biden administration. So this was one of the emergency rules put in place. The brief history here, Julie, is, Donald Trump-- the Trump administration, what they did is they banned travel into the United States from people in various countries that were hotspots during the early and intense days of the COVID pandemic.

And then late last year, the Biden administration changed that. They ended that ban on people coming in from certain countries. But they put in this new ban that in order to fly here from overseas, you had to get this negative COVID test.

And at first, it was within a 72-hour window. But then they tightened it to make it a 24-hour window, and that's still in place. So the Biden administration could just choose to end that requirement.

They could also ease it while keeping it in place. For example, going back to, you've got three days to get the negative COVID test instead of just one day. But the travel industry and many other companies are really pressing hard to end this.

BRIAN SOZZI: Rick, do you think the administration realizes this is having a real economic impact? And yesterday, I was talking to one exec. They actually canceled their trip to the World Economic Forum in a couple of weeks because they are afraid of getting stuck over there and not being able to run the companies that they're supposed to be running.

RICK NEWMAN: Yeah, and this is not just the travel industry. This is part of the supply chain problem because there are foreigners who want to come to the United States for business purposes related to supply chain issues, let's say. And they-- and then they don't. For that exact reason, Brian.

So what people have been telling me is that the Commerce Secretary, Gina Raimondo, very much in their corner. She's pushing hard to end this for business reasons, but she's not the decision maker. This is-- this goes to the CDC. And it really falls to the new COVID response coordinator, that's Ashish Jha.

He's new in the job. He replaced Jeff Zients in April. And he's got a full plate. So it's possible he just hasn't gotten to this yet. But I will tell you that a group of about 300 CEOs is going to sign a letter going to the White House very soon, perhaps today, asking, making the point how important this is to start to get back to normal and get back to normal travel patterns for people who want to visit the United States.

BRAD SMITH: We're going to be revisiting this conversation as well. Later on during the 11:00 AM hour with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. Our own Rick Newman helping us break this down and really set the stage for it. Thanks so much, Rick. Appreciate it.

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