US reopens border to COVID-free tourists. What does it mean for economy and holiday travel?

By Caleigh Wells

This week the U.S. accepted travelers for the first time in more than a year and a half. Now anyone can come, as long as they show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taken within three days of their travel date.

The rush now is among international visitors who are reuniting across the Atlantic, says global tourism reporter Lebawit “Lily” Girma from Skift.

Girma says major cities in the United States are about to see a rebound, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. She says LAX is currently the second busiest airport in the country, which could mean longer lines during the holiday season.

“It’s great for business, not so much for the consumer at this point, but it’s good news still,” she says.

There will also be more daily traffic from Mexico and Canada. Shortly after the pandemic began, border crossings were restricted to essential workers. Now family and friends are having long-overdue reunions.

“I met a woman in Tijuana who was waiting to cross. She’d come all the way from southern Baja to visit a friend for the first time since the pandemic started. Her friend lost a parent during the pandemic, and they were finally getting to mourn this loss together,” says immigration reporter Kate Morrissey with San Diego Union-Tribune.

Morrissey says that’s also good news for businesses near the border that have been hurt by the closures.

“Some of those businesses closed permanently or saw sharp declines in business during this time, so now they’re hoping this is going to mean a big rebound. Certainly, San Diego officials have been pushing the U.S. government to reopen the borders for that very reason,” Morrissey says.