US opening to vaccinated foreign nationals seen as boost for cruising and economy

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Mardi Gras at Port Canaveral, a draw for international travelers thanks to its proximity to Central Florida theme parks including Walt Disney World
With the United States planning to lift air travel restrictions for vaccinated foreign nationals starting in November, this is good news for cruising and the US economy as a whole.

A Royal Caribbean Group spokesman said his company is reviewing this development, and a Carnival Corp. spokesman deferred comment in advance of the earnings report scheduled for Friday. 

But Cruise Lines International Association and the US Travel Association effusively greeted the news. 

'Our members look forward to welcoming international travelers, including from the United Kingdom and the European Union, back to the United States while continuing to prioritize public health,' CLIA said.

Cruising an important driver of international visits to US

CLIA called the cruise industry an important driver of international visits to the US, prompting approximately 2.5m international visitors to embark on a cruise stateside in 2019, representing nearly 18% of all US cruise embarkations. Of this, 930,000 were Europeans, representing 5.9% of inbound European travel to the US. 

$9.7bn impact

According to the association, international cruise visitors in the US spend $4.5bn annually on hotel stays, transportation, retail and other US businesses, supporting nearly 60,000 American jobs. Total economic impact is estmated at $9.7bn. 

The US Travel Association likewise applauded the Biden administration’s announcement of a road map to reopen air travel to fully vaccinated individuals from around the world, which it said will help revive the American economy and protect public health.

'This is a major turning point in the management of the virus and will accelerate the recovery of the millions of travel-related jobs that have been lost due to international travel restrictions,' said Roger Dow, US Travel Association president and CEO.

Proof of vaccination and a COVID test

Foreign travelers will need to show proof of vaccination before boarding their flight and a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days before arriving to the US. The accepted vaccines are to be determined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a contact tracing protocol will be established.

US appeal for cruise.co.uk customers

Based on bookings taken during the past six months by online cruise travel specialist cruise.co.uk, the US has emerged as the most popular destination for UK holidaymakers booking a cruise abroad. 

The Mediterranean is second on the list, with the Caribbean third and Canada fourth.

Bookings up 12% on pre-pandemic levels

'The US has always been a firm favorite with UK cruise guests, both as a holiday hotspot in itself and as the gateway to the Caribbean. Its position has recently been bolstered, with bookings growing by 12% compared to pre-pandemic levels,' cruise.co.uk said.

Desired overseas cruise length has also edged up, with the proportion of passengers booking 14 to 20 nights rising from 32% to 35% compared to 2019, and those sailing 21 nights or more going up from 6% to 9%.

Meanwhile, the percentage of travelers booking their sailing from the UK to an overseas destination has also increased, from 27% to 37%. Accordingly, those flying from the UK has reduced, from 73% to 63%.

January and February remain the most popular months for UK holidaymakers to travel on an international cruise, which has been the case the past few years.

'As popular as ever'

'The US has always been a go-to port of call for overseas cruise guests; it’s clear that, as international travel further opens up, it remains as popular as ever,' said Tony Andrews, deputy managing director of cruise.co.uk. 'The fantastic variety of holiday options on offer, including a wide range of ships and itineraries, means the US continues to appeal to both seasoned cruisers and first-time passengers alike.'

As to the slight shift in the proportion of people booking extended sailings, Andrews said travelers may be looking to make up for the holidays they’ve missed during the past 18 months.

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