Travelers from more than 30 countries, including the U.K. and Brazil, were restricted from traveling to the U.S. since the start of the pandemic as COVID-19 cases continued to spiral out of control across the globe.
Visitors will be required to be fully vaccinated and present a negative COVID test taken three days before departure. Certain exemptions apply to travelers under the age of 18.
The news is a welcome relief for U.S. retailers as international tourists are key drivers of physical store sales. In 2019, foreign tourists accounted for $43.4 billion worth of retail spending, which is equivalent to 27 percent of the total shopping that is driven by the travel and tourism industry, according to the International Trade Administration.
That being said, it will be a while before travel retail spending reaches its pre-pandemic potential as airlines are still operating fewer flights and China, a key source of international tourism has largely restricted outbound travel.
“Airlines will tell you that they are seeing a surge in booking. What they don’t quantify is when. Hotels will tell you is they’re seeing an uptick in bookings. What they won’t tell you is when,” Daniel Binder, a partner for travel retail focussed Columbus Consulting told CNBC. “The ban will lift, and it will take time.”
Still, the reopening of the U.S. economy has brought much-needed relief to retailers, and an increase in spending from international travelers will “give a jolt to the retail side,” according to National Retail Federation CEO Matt Shay.
“The return to the service and the experience economy is going to be positive and beneficial for retail and it’s going to be enhanced furthermore by these international visitors returning to the U.S.,” he said Wednesday.