The first international travelers landed in New York City on Monday now that a travel ban for fully vaccinated visitors has been lifted.

Family members of travelers like Louise Ereva were on hand to greet their family members who landed on Monday at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Ereva waited for her sister. She said the reopened border is a big step to getting things back to normal.

“It’s been 730 days. Two years to the day since I’ve seen her,” Ereva said.

The influx of people comes just in time for the holiday season. Families who have been separated for nearly two years are now able to reunite.

There are limited exemptions for travelers including for people under 18 and for people from countries where there’s limited access to the vaccine.

“There’s a real opportunity here. Obviously we’ve faced some difficult times, but I’m optimistic we are seeing the unlocking of restrictions not just in travel, but across our economies,” said British Consul General to New York Emma Wade-Smith.

Wade-Smith was on hand to greet some of the first foreign travelers to arrive.

“The reopening of transatlantic flight for most British travelers today is a great shot in the arm for the aviation industry, but it’s also going to be a massive boost for tourism,” Wade-Smith said.

Aircraft carriers are increasing flights between the United Kingdom and the United States. One report says flights have increased by as much as 21% in the past month.

While a lot of the focus has been on air travel, people are also getting in their cars in Canada and driving across the border.

Executive Vice President of the tourism organization NYC and Company Chris Heywood said international travelers won’t be exempt from New York’s strict COVID-19 guidelines.

“This is going to be the new reality. International visitors, and visitors at large, are going to have to follow precautions, and that is done to ensure the safety of everyone,” Heywood said.

The tourism executive said it’s the Covid guidelines which make New York City so attractive.

“We’ve done such a terrific job, from a public health perspective, making this city safe. And I think actually that is the most appealing factor for people who want to vacation in New York City,” Heywood said.

For Ereva, she says she’ll never go this long with out hugging her sister again.

“There are so many people who wont get to see their loved ones. I’m the lucky one. I’m going to see mine today,” Ereva said.


Editor's note: An earlier version of this story identified Emma Wade-Smith as British Consulate General to New York. Wade-Smith is British Consul General to New York.


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