Washington, DC

International Travelers Return to Washington, D.C., Maybe Bringing an Economic Boost With Them

Nicholas Barron

Dulles International Airport welcomed flights from dozens of countries for the first time yesterday since the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered most international travel in March 2020.

The U.S. government lifted its COVID-19 ban on visitors from other countries yesterday. Now, fully vaccinated people with recent negative COVID-19 tests from most nations in the world can visit the U.S.

And on Nov. 8, Dulles was ready for their arrival.

“Today's the day we've been waiting on for more than 18 months!” Dulles Airport posted on its social media accounts. “WELCOME to all of our international friends! Whether you're reuniting with friends and family, or just coming for a holiday abroad, we're glad you're here!”

According to FlightStats.com, flights from countries including Brazil, Ireland, Canada, and Japan touched down at Dulles for the first time in 20 months. The Washington Post reported on families reuniting at the airport.

The return of international visitors to the Washington, D.C., area could mean an economic boost to the Capital Region.

Reopening borders could be an economic boon for DC

“We're really excited about these numbers coming back to Washington, D.C. and to the U.S. and those borders reopening,” Elliott Ferguson, the president & CEO of Destination DC, told ABC 7.

About 1.8 million international travelers visit DC during non-pandemic years, according to Destination DC. But, Ferguson said, these visitors account for 36% of the area’s annual tourism spend.

“So, from the standpoint of leisure travel and conventions, some of the larger conferences, rely on international visitation for maybe 40% of their attendance,” Ferguson said. “It's a big deal for us.”

While it’s unclear how many international travelers will visit DC in the coming months, the city ranks as the 9th-most trending destination for visitors from abroad, according to travel app Hopper.

“Since September 20th when the U.S. announced its reopening to inbound foreign travelers, searches have risen 338% for international flights departing to the U.S. after November 8th,” Hopper said. “This suggests a strong recovery in international travel demand for flights to the U.S., approximately twice as strong as 2020 search demand this time last year.”

And airlines are responding.

Air France is planning to operate seven weekly flights between Paris and Dulles this winter. Delta Airlines said its international point-of-sale bookings are up 450%.

American Airlines is doubling its international flight capacity over last year, while next month, United will boost its international flights to 69% of its Dec. 2019 levels.

Also, by May, Dulles plans to add flights between Dulles and Amman, Jordan, and Berlin.

Since the travel ban was lifted, have you welcomed someone from another country? Or, are you planning any international travel? Let me know in the comments.

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