Americans Are Not Paying Any Attention To CDC’s ‘Do Not Travel’ List

Linda D. Garrow

For international travelers, the weekly updates by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to its global risk assessment map are meant to tell a story of where Covid-19 still remains a risk to travelers.

It seems to hardly matter that for the third consecutive week, the CDC did not add a single country to its “Do Not Travel” list. As the world opens back up to tourism, that Level 4 list still includes 89 countries. The CDC designates a destination to be a Level-4 risk when more than 500 cases per 100,000 people are recorded within the past 28 days.

In fact, virtually all of Europe, the go-to continent for so many American travelers, has been stubbornly stuck for the best part of a year at Level 4, which means the CDC considers the continent to have a “very high risk” assessment for Covid-19.

But that isn’t stopping American travelers from planning trips to favorite European destinations. “The CDC advisories are having little impact,” says Misty Belles, vice president of global public relations for Virtuoso, whose 20,000 travel advisors make up the world’s largest luxury travel network.

Seven European Level-4 destinations — Italy, France, Greece, the United Kingdom, Spain, Ireland and Switzerland — dominate Virtuoso’s top 10 destinations. The remaining three destinations include the United States and its neighbors, Canada and Mexico, which are all at Level 3, signifying a “high risk” for Covid-19.

“Covid rates are no longer a front-seat consideration. The general feeling is that the world is safe again with a few exceptions.”

– James Ferrara, president of InteleTravel

Meanwhile, much of the African continent is at Level 1 on the CDC’s list, signifying a low risk for virus spread. Might this be a good year for Americans to swap a trip to Paris or Rome for a safari in Botswana or Namibia or exploring the souks of Marrakesh?

“I don’t see an increase in Africa bookings but I do see a strong return for Europe,” says James Ferrara, president of InteleTravel, an online travel agency with a network of over 70,000 independent travel advisors, who reviewed more than 10,000 bookings since the beginning of April. “Europe bookings are 20 times or more than Africa. This is significant because Europe had largely disappeared from travel requests for a long time.”

“I think customers are prudent but Covid rates are no longer a front-seat consideration,” says Ferrara. “The general feeling is that the world is safe again with a few exceptions.”

Among those destinations considered “less safe,” Ferrara cites the headline grabbers: China because of Covid lockdowns, and Eastern Europe and Russia due to the war.

Looking for other low-risk options? This week, the Philippines also moved to Level 1, joining 47 other countries in the lowest risk category.

And closer to home in the Caribbean, Saint Kitts and Nevis as well as Saint Vincent and the Grenadines moved to Level 1 this week, joining Jamaica at the lowest risk level. The Bahamas are currently at Level 2, which means “moderate” risk. Many other popular Caribbean destinations — Anguilla, Antiqua and Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, St. Lucia, St. Martin, Turks and Caicos — are all at Level 3.

If you ask travel advisors, however, they’ll tell you that most Americans are done with CDC advisories. “We have the momentum of the travel rebound, plus Americans have short memories of bad news,” says Ferrara. “There is no fear in the marketplace.”

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