Just as Ontario finally lifted some of its COVID-19-inspired travel restrictions, the US Department of State announced plans to revise its travel advisory for dozens of countries, including its neighbors, Canada and Mexico. While the border between American and Canada may remain closed until September, the State Department's decision to lower its travel advisory to a Level 3 from a Level 4 could have major implications for tourism around the world.
Back in April, the US rated about 150 countries out of 209 as "Level 4: Do Not Travel." Today that number has fallen to about 125 at the highest advisory level.
As restrictions start to ease, air travel, a popular gauge of travel linked to tourism, has started to rebound, As of the end of May, the TSA announced that it had screened nearly 2MM air travelers - the highest number since the pandemic began. News of Washington's plans to abandon the travel curbs sent airline shares climbing, with Hawaiian Airlines and Air Canada both seeing notable gains.
Washington isn't the only North American nation easing travel advisories. Yesterday, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau was reportedly planning to lift travel restrictions for people who could prove they have been vaccinated
According to the Department of State, the department said it was updating the advisories after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed the methodology for its travel health notices.
The government was reportedly preparing plans to loosen the current 14-day isolation period for border-crossers who’ve had two vaccine doses, according to the people, speaking on condition they not be identified. Travelers entering Canada would still be tested for the virus and may be required to quarantine for a shorter period. Notably, these advisories aren't mandatory, but they do help airlines set their own restrictions for travel. Other countries often reciprocate for American citizens based on the State Department's advisories.
The decision, which will certainly be welcomed by America's European rivals, who have already opened the drawbridge to allow vaccinated Americans to travel to the Continent (so long as they leave COVID at home). This latest move comes just days before President Joe Biden is set to visit the UK for a Group of 7 meeting while Vice President Kamala Harris visits Mexico. Airlines and some nations have complained that current travel restrictions to the US are out of step with rising vaccination rates and the reduced threat of contracting Covid-19, and many limits on U.S. travelers remain in place.
Pressure has been growing on the Canadian and U.S. governments to relax restrictions that have been in place since March of last year, dramatically reducing land and air traffic between the two countries. A pact that limits non-essential travel is due for renewal on June 21. The restrictions have hit the nation’s tourism and airline sectors particularly hard: according to one estimate the measures cost those industries about C$20 billion ($16.5 billion) in revenue last year. Pre-pandemic, Canadians made on average more than 1MM same-day car trips into the US every month. That’s down to just over 100K per month over the last 12 months.
Trudeau has mentioned a 75% vaccination rate as a key threshold when asked about potentially reopening the border. More than 60% of Canadians have received a first dose with about 8% fully vaccinated, according to data tracked by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. In the U.S., 51.6% have had their first shot and 42.1% have had two, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. Active cases in both countries have plunged.