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COVID-19 travel restrictions deal stateside tourism a blow

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People enjoy the warm weather on Santa Monica beach on April 30 in Santa Monica, California.

People enjoy the warm weather on Santa Monica beach on April 30. Popular international tourist destinations across California are feeling the pain caused by international travel restrictions. Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images

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The Biden administration announced this week that it will maintain existing COVID-19 restrictions on international travel to the United States.

Lawmakers, representatives from the travel industry and foreign governments have been appealing to the U.S. to lift the restrictions.

But for now, the decision means tourists from China, India, Brazil and most of Europe will stay barred as delta variant cases rise globally, meaning a hit to popular foreign tourist destinations during the summer travel season.

In mid-August, a dozen people from the United Kingdom were planning to come to San Diego and ride Segways around town.

“They canceled it because they can’t leave the U.K. to the United States because of the travel ban,” said Kenneth Lippman, president of Another Side Tours. He was sure the restrictions were going to be lifted by then. Now, he’s not making any promises.

Luckily, domestic bookings are more than making up for the missing foreigners for Lippman.

International tourists do spend more than domestic travelers though, said Adam Burke, president of the L.A. Tourism and Convention Board.

And while he appreciates the Biden administration’s caution, he said holding back the most lucrative travelers is holding back Los Angeles.

“It’s going to take us longer to recover from a purely economic standpoint,” he said.

Normally half of Jasmine Jia’s customers are foreigners who book a statewide experience. The tour guide runs a sightseeing company called La La Tours.

“Besides the Hollywood history, they’re also fascinated by the West Coast, California,” Jia said.

But for now, domestic travelers are keeping the lights on.

“Enough money — hopefully — to pay the insurance company and licensing fee and marking material,” she said.

Jia’s not making a profit now but is looking past this summer for the return of international travel.

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