NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – International travel to the United States resumes Monday for tourists, as historic restrictions were lifted for those who are fully vaccinated.
To celebrate, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have teamed up for the first ever commercial double takeoff at London’s Heathrow Airport in New York. Now the city is preparing for an influx of travelers.
READ MORE: Mayor-elect Adams suggests mask-wearing in New York school classrooms could be finished by end of school year
With the restrictions lifted for the first time in nearly 21 months, airlines are warning travelers to be prepared for long lines.
As CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge reported, we also expect plenty of emotional reunions.
“Seeing life in New York City, in Midtown right now is very exciting,” Joe Gaeta, regional director of sales and marketing for the Hyatt, told CBS2.
The hotels in the city have already started to see an influx of tourists. Most rooms at the Hyatt Grand Central have sold out.
“We are seeing bookings, with a majority coming from the UK, Spain, Italy, France and Canada,” Gaeta said. “We continue to see this not only during the holiday season, but also in the 1st and 2nd quarters of next year.”
For nearly two years, a travel ban prevented visitors from more than 30 countries from coming to the United States, curtailing American tourism and preventing loved ones from seeing their families.
That changes Monday.
Airlines should verify that international travelers are fully immunized with vaccines approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, not just those approved in the United States. Children under 18 are exempt from this rule.
READ MORE: Court of Appeal stops COVID vaccine requirement for large companies
The land borders with Mexico and Canada are once again open for fully vaccinated tourists, and border security will verify documents on the spot.
New York City’s official tourism agency says foreign travelers are the key to recovery.
“It’s usually around 20% of the volume, but they’re 50% of the spend because they tend to stay longer and spend more while they’re here,” said Chris Heywood, executive vice president of NYC. & Company.
They spend on things like shopping, sports games, and Broadway.
“They represent about 15% of our business on an annual basis,” said Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League. “They’re staying longer, they’re buying more tickets and we love having them. “
They also give restaurants a boost.
” You have to start somewhere. This is great news, we are optimistic, we also need to be realistic, ”said Andrew Rigie, executive director of NYC Hospitality Alliance.
The city’s comptroller’s office said air travel in the region had stalled since September, 40% below pre-pandemic trends. However, as of Monday, that should also change as we get closer to normal.
Airlines are required to verify air travelers’ vaccination records and match them with identification. If they don’t match, they could be fined. Contact tracing is also required.
NO MORE NEWS: Home COVID tests promise quick results before holiday gatherings, but are they accurate? CBS2 investigation
CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis will join some travelers on long-awaited trips to the United States. Look for his reporting on CBS2 News at 5 p.m. and 11 p.m.