Open US borders will fuel demand for travel, travel agencies say
Travel agencies expect a big rush to the United States with the lifting of the direct entry ban for fully vaccinated travelers by the Biden administration.
The new rule will take effect on November 8. It will benefit long-term tourist, business or work visa holders, while new and additional flights from Air India and American Airlines are expected to provide better travel options. Visa appointments (for new applicants) are reduced due to local Covid-19 measures and their resumption is not yet clear.
“International travel will gain momentum as cases of Covid-19 decline across the country and with the relaxation of travel standards by major global destinations, including the United States. The rates will be higher in the first few days, but we expect them to be streamlined after about a week, ”said a spokesperson for Yatra.com.
On Friday, the White House announced the lifting of restrictions for vaccinated travelers and this will facilitate travel between the two countries. Those inoculated with a Covid-19 vaccine approved by the FDA or WHO will be accepted. The U.S. government will separately issue orders and guidance documents to implement the new travel policy.
Restrictions on non-U.S. Citizens were first imposed on air travelers from China in January 2020 by then-President Donald Trump, and then extended to dozens of other countries. Travel restrictions for India went into effect on May 4 as the country was gripped by the second wave of the pandemic.
These restrictions meant that holders of tourist or business visas had to spend fourteen days outside India in order to enter the United States. The restrictions did not apply to U.S. citizens and permanent residents, among others. Students whose classes started after August 1 were allowed direct entry.
While November-December has traditionally been a peak season for inbound travel to India from the United States this year, there could be a rush on outbound flights as well. Travel industry sources say many people who have postponed trips to the United States due to the restrictions could book flights.
“The US update on accepting fully vaccinated Indians without quarantine starting November 8 is a welcome development for our business travelers as well as families and leisure segments. Flight capacity is currently limited to flights under the air transport bubble. Fares which are already more than 60% above pre-pandemic levels may well see an increase, ”said Indiver Rastogi, President and Group Head (Global Business Travel), Thomas Cook India.
Currently, Air India and United operate non-stop flights to the United States from Mumbai and Delhi. From November 3, Air India is increasing the frequency on the Delhi-Chicago route from six to seven per week. American Airlines is launching new services between New York and Delhi from October 31 and between Seattle and Bangalore from January 4.
“The US government’s decision to lift travel restrictions is a positive development and must now be followed by an increase in visa services to India. Visa appointments have been restricted due to local Covid-19 measures and personnel issues within the US State Department, among others. This has had an impact on tourism, business and work visa applicants. Many found it impossible to get a new visa because no appointment was available, ”said Poorvi Chothani, managing partner of LawQuest, an immigration law firm.
“New H1B visas have been issued to those who qualify under the National Interest Exception Policy. However, thousands of people are approved and eligible to apply for an H1B visa and have not been able to join their new jobs in the United States. Improved visa services in India are essential to enable people to travel to the United States, ”she added.