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Travelers Are Coming Back to the US. But They're Not Spending

It’ll take until 2025 for international tourism spending to hit pre-pandemic levels. But inbound airline bookings are nearly back to normal.

A tourist waits for a picture at Times Square on July 17, 2022, in New York. The summer tourism season is in full swing across New York, despite inflation and gas prices.

A tourist waits for a picture at Times Square on July 17, 2022, in New York. The summer tourism season is in full swing across New York, despite inflation and gas prices.

Photographer: VIEW press/Corbis News

In the six weeks since President Joe Biden lifted the requirement for pre-arrival antigen testing, international travel to and from the U.S. has shot through the roof.

New data from the World Travel and Tourism Council, collected in partnership with ForwardKeys, shows that airline bookings to the US spiked by 93% since the June 12 policy change, compared with the same period the year before. “It’s a huge sign of the pent-up demand that exists,” explains Julia Simpson, WTTC president and chief executive officer, “as well as the massive dampening effect that the testing requirement has had on travelers who have been wanting to go to the US.”