When the USA dropped its mandate on COVID tests for passengers on international flights coming into the country, there was a sigh of relief. And yeah, okay, it wasn’t heard around the world, but it was loud. And it had been a long time coming, since it marked the fall of yet another obstacle standing in the way of travel.
According to the travel site, The Points Guy, “In place since January 2021, the U.S. testing mandate has been the subject of much scrutiny among airlines and throughout the travel industry, particularly in recent months after a federal judge struck down the federal mask mandate for public transportation but left the testing protocol in place.”
For sports events (including youth tournaments) that have long relied on international competitors, there may be a bump in registration. Of course, it won’t be seen right away; however, like most aspects of the return to normal, it is a process, rather than an event.
One of the first events to see a true benefit this summer is likely to be the World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, to be held July 7-17. The organization’s website notes,
“The Birmingham Organizing Committee (BOC), together with the International World Games Association (IWGA), has adapted its COVID-19 policy for the Games, where there will be more than 3,600 athletes from 108 nations.
While no negative test is needed, all participants are required to be fully vaccinated with the primary series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine, subject only to religious or medical exemptions. At this time, while this The World Games 2022 Protocol permits religious or medical exemptions, the United States requires all non-US citizens or non-US immigrants to be fully vaccinated with the primary series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine prior to travel to the United States by plane.”
That’s not to say, however, that those traveling to, or returning to, destinations outside the USA are off the hook, however. Regulations vary – and they do fluctuate. The U.S. State Department has a running and updated list concerning the rules for flying into international destinations, and travelers are advised to check it regularly. And of course, the CDC notes, travelers should put plans on hold if they are sick.
Youth tournaments this summer that have begun marketing to an international audience may find they receive a bump in registration. And while the mandate dropped too late to do any good to early summer events (one example is AAU’s 49th Junior National Volleyball Championships – which still managed to bring in athletes to the Orange County Convention Center not only from across the U.S. but from two U.S. territories and four international destinations – Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, and Peru), it is likely there will be significant changes to tournaments on a forward-going basis.
One tournament already seeing an increase is the Waupaca Boatride Volleyball Tournament, known as the U.S. Open of Grass Volleyball. Scheduled to be held in Eau Claire, Wisconsin from July 7-10, the event is reaping the rewards of a lack of testing mandates.
"It certainly is a benefit for us, we get teams from Canada, Brazil, Italy, and the Czech Republic area," says Tom Galecke, director of the tournament. "It helps us a lot. Registration is certainly up again."
The only thing that could be keeping international sports travel back this summer is increases in airline fares, brought on by the unfortunate combination of a pilot shortage and an increase in fuel costs. Those with airline points or frequent flyer miles are being encouraged to use those to mitigate the costs of tickets.
Previously, travel from international destinations into the USA had been in a distinct slump; in fact, says TPG, “despite the fact that domestic travel has surged in recent months, the latest numbers from Airlines for America, a trade group representing major carriers, showed international travel has continued to lag behind 2019 levels by 24 percent for the month of May.
TPG’s research revealed the mandate was having a continued dampening effect on attitudes toward international travel. In a TPG survey from this spring, more than half of respondents said they’d be more likely to travel internationally if the U.S. did not have a re-entry testing requirement in place.”