The Biden administration announced on Monday that it will award $314 million in grants to 34 states and the District of Columbia to help revive travel and tourism, two industries that have been hard hit by the strict COVID-19 pandemic regulations.
The funding, which is part of a larger COVID-19 relief package approved by Congress, comes after the US lifted travel restrictions on fully vaccinated foreign nationals flying from 33 countries, as well as tourists crossing land borders from Mexico and Canada, that had been in effect since early 2020.
‘Travel and tourism is one of the hardest hit industries,’ US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told media in an interview. The industry is still struggling, but the new demand will give it a boost, she said.
The US was lagging behind much of the rest of the world in easing travel restrictions. In 2020, international arrivals to the United States fell 75.5 percent, while foreign national spending in the United States fell 64.3 percent, around $150 billion.
Communities along the United States’ borders with Mexico and Canada, as well as places like Florida that cater to foreign tourists, were particularly devastated. United Airlines President Brett Hart expects international travel to return to pre-pandmeic levels in 2022.
According to United States Travels, the international inbound travel segment will not recover to 2019 levels until at least 2024.
The United Kingdom, Ireland, the 26 Schengen Area countries, South Africa, Iran, Brazil, India and China were among the countries whose travel restrictions were lifted on Monday for fully vaccinated travellers who travel to the United States.