It will be more difficult for tourists to avoid masks on their way to Las Vegas.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed an executive order making international travel safer and requiring masks for planes, ships and other transportation.
While new mandates might be key to opening up international travel, local tourism and health experts don’t expect the order to have a huge impact on Las Vegas tourism rates or the number of COVID-19 cases.
“We’ve been dealing with masks in Las Vegas for months,” said Brian Labus, assistant professor of epidemiology at UNLV and a member of the medical team advising Governor Steve Sisolak. “It’s really no change for us.”
Biden’s new mask mandate applies to airports, planes, ships, intercity buses, trains and public transport.
The executive order also requires international travelers to provide evidence of a recent COVID-19 negative test prior to entry and to follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control to quarantine them upon arrival. International travelers are asked to stay home for at least seven days if they are retested or ten days if they are not tested.
Various travel industries, including airlines, already have strict mask requirements, but the executive order is expected to make the guidelines more coherent and assist companies with passengers who refuse to adhere to the rules.
Airlines have already banned thousands of people from flying for refusing to wear masks. Delta Air Lines Inc. alone banned more than 800, according to a January 14 prize call.
According to an October report from the Harvard School of Public Health, universal mask use is “one of the most effective options for controlling the spread of the virus” on airplanes, reducing the risk of infection from respiratory particles to less than 1 percent.
Labus said he was in favor of the new mask mandate but doesn’t think it will have a huge impact on the number of cases in Nevada that have forced the use of public masks since June. The state reported 1,200 new coronavirus cases on Thursday with a two-week positivity rate of 20.3 percent.
“We are basically doing all of the things that are in this new mandate,” he said. “Someone who comes to Las Vegas will be wearing a mask the second they get on the plane during their trip to Vegas. So that won’t change much in the Las Vegas behaviors.”
Still, the new mandates might be enough to convince some that travel is safe again, according to Josh Swissman, founding partner of The Strategy Organization consulting firm for gaming and hospitality in Las Vegas.
“Anyone who has just thought about travel but hasn’t done so, especially by air – it makes them feel more secure,” he said. “(This) may push some of them into the category of readiness and warning to travel. But I don’t see that as a gigantic number. “
Labus believes the biggest impact of the contract will be making the country’s COVID-19 response consistent.
“The previous government left it to the states,” he said. “It is still up to individual states to decide their policies, but now we are going to have some consistent guidelines that the federal government can enforce to say we expect this of all.”
An “important security layer”
US Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said the federal test mandate will be key to reopening international travel and should help ease travel restrictions for regions like the UK, European Union and Brazil.
“It adds another important layer of security,” Dow said in a statement Friday. “If the test requirement is to work on a global scale, it has to be flexible and reflect where test resources are available and where not. The implementing regulation would allow flexibility if necessary. “
He also said lifting the travel bans from certain Muslim-majority countries was “the right move”.
While the CDC had already announced plans to enforce international tests, the quarantine requirement set out in the executive order is new. Dow said the stay at home order could be “extremely difficult” to enforce and was unnecessary given the other safeguards already in place.
“In the home environment, where there are no defined ports of entry for travelers, mandatory testing and other requirements are also impractical and could divert scarce public health resources from other priorities,” he said.
The Swiss added that the quarantine order could restrict some international travel in Las Vegas, but the numbers are already so small that the loss would be negligible.
McCarran International Airport increased from 151,289 passengers in January 2020 to just 30,006 between April and December.
“It will have a negative impact on such a small number of travelers, I don’t know you can feel it in Las Vegas,” said the Swiss.
According to Brendan Bussmann of Global Market Advisors, the travel rules are expected to continue to change. He believes international travelers will likely need to show proof of vaccination in order to fly once the vaccine is widely available.
He added that the return of the airlift – especially international flights – is essential to the economic recovery in Las Vegas.
“By the time the airlift returns, the Vegas recovery will take longer,” he said.
Contact Bailey Schulz at [email protected] Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.