Every week we comb through the news to find employment trends affecting the hospitality industry so you don’t have to. This week’s topic: U.S. reopens borders to international travelers.

U.S. Reopens Borders to International Travelers

For the first time since March 2020, the U.S. has reopened its borders to international travelers who are fully vaccinated. It’s been almost two years (20 months) since the travel ban went into effect which prohibited 33 countries from entering the U.S. unless they completed a mandatory quarantine upon arrival. Now tourists, family members, and business travelers coming from countries ranging from Canada to China can enter the country following certain safety requirements.  

Though the U.S. and Europe are still handling new COVID-19 cases, the lifting of the travel ban comes at what seems like the perfect time – right before the holidays. In addition to bringing families together, reopening the borders will impact several areas of our economy, especially the hospitality industry. 

Not including 2020, the U.S. hosts on average between 75-80 million international travelers per year (since 2014). While that only makes up about 10% of yearly hotel goers in the U.S., it’s still a huge portion of guests. Suddenly adding or subtracting them undoubtedly affects the hotel industry and other hospitality players like surrounding bars and restaurants. Though all 80 million international travelers probably won’t arrive in the U.S. in the next couple of months, reopening the borders will have an impact on the hospitality industry. Here’s what we think we can expect:  

How Will the U.S. Reopening its Borders Impact the Hospitality Industry?
  • A busier holiday season than anticipated. Families who have spent the last 20 months apart will likely be looking forward to spending the holiday season together. While some will travel abroad to Europe and other destinations, we can anticipate a bigger influx of international visitors who are looking to spend the holidays at major U.S. destinations like New York or Los Angeles.  
  • Higher hotel occupancy rates and fuller restaurants. The road to recovery for the hospitality industry is ongoing, especially as it continues to face staffing challenges. As international visitors make their travel plans, they’ll obviously need places to stay and dine. But how will the hospitality industry account for the extra workers needed to accommodate the (needed) uptick in business? 
  • Visas will be reinstated. Certain visas allow foreign workers to be employed by U.S. companies in “specialty occupations,” but during the pandemic these visas were suspended. As they get reinstated, we can expect the hospitality industry to utilize these workers in summer 2022.  

Though we’re not yet reaching 2019 numbers, TSA reported only a 10% decrease in travel numbers on 11/14/2021 compared to two years prior. We can’t yet anticipate the full effect of the U.S. reopens borders to international travelers, but we know that the hospitality industry – hotels in particular – will be significantly impacted. Be sure to follow the Hospitality in the News series to stay up to date with everything hospitality.