Senators urge the reopening of international travel and the lifting of the CDC’s sailing ban

People wait for their luggage in the terminal of Boston Logan International Airport in Boston.

Erin Clark | Boston Globe | Getty Images

A new Senate Travel and Tourism subcommittee held its first hearing on Tuesday calling on the U.S. government to take concrete steps to boost U.S. tourism after a devastating 2020.

Legislators have been eager to see when international entry restrictions that have hit tourism-dependent states like Florida, Nevada, and Washington would be lifted, including pushing for a way for cruise lines to resume sailing.

“There is reluctance to map out a roadmap for reopening international travel,” said Tori Barnes, executive vice president of the US Travel Association.

She said resuming international travel would shorten the recovery time for the rundown travel industry.

Lawmakers also suggested that greater cabinet-level representation of travel would help travel and tourism.

“There is no cabinet-level position focused on tourism. We believe leadership is needed,” Barnes said.

Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan raised concerns about the Centers for Disease Control and Disease Prevention Centers’ conditional sailing order for the cruise lines.

The Republican senator recently met with CDC director Rochelle Walensky and said, “She really had no idea about these issues. Cruise lines in America through mid-July were what she thought possible … none of it turned out to be true.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Sullivan, along with Florida Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, announced a bill aimed at overriding the CDC’s current framework for the return of cruise ships to the sea. In this new piece of legislation, known as the CRUISE Act or Careful Resumption Under Improved Safety Enhancements, lawmakers are urging U.S. health officials to change the current guidelines.

The proposal is just the latest effort by Republican lawmakers in states that rely heavily on the industry to urge the CDC to come up with a clearer timetable for cruise lines. Democratic officials from Florida were particularly silent when the cruise lines were withdrawn from service.

Over the past year, several Democratic lawmakers have taken steps to block funding from the cruise industry.

“You are not American … you do not pay any taxes in the United States,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., In mid-March 2020.

But Florida and Alaska’s economies are feeling the effects after more than a year without cruising.

In the first six months of the pandemic, Florida lost $ 3.2 billion to the cruise industry shutdown, including nearly 50,000 jobs that paid $ 2.3 billion in wages, according to a September 2020 report by the Federal Maritime Commission.

Meanwhile, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy estimated that the overall impact of the 2020 and 2021 cruises being canceled will result in more than $ 3.3 billion in domestic product loss.

Last Thursday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis filed a lawsuit against the CDC, calling the agency’s existing policies “irrational”.

Dunleavy was also critical. In a strong statement last week to Jeff Zients, Coordinator of the White House’s Covid-19 Task Force, Dunleavy wrote, “The CDC’s recent decision to extend the 2020” conditional sail order “effectively removes any potential for one Cruise season 2021 and puts the future of thousands of family businesses in Alaska at risk. “

The CDC has stated that the coronavirus is easy to spread in a cruise environment and has advised caution. The latest guidelines suggest that daily reporting of Covid disease, frequent testing and vaccinations are required if crossings are allowed to resume.

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