U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin encouraged Americans to focus on domestic travel this year as the international travel outlook for the rest of 2020 remains uncertain amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In response to a question from Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business Network Monday about whether international travel will be opened up this year, he responded, “Too hard to tell at this point.”
The Treasury secretary clarified that there may be room for limited international travel: “Obviously, for businesspeople that do need to travel, there will be travel on a limited basis.”
Travelers interested in going abroad don’t have many options, given a slew of international travel restrictions, government travel warnings and limited international flights. In late March, the U.S. State Department issued its highest alert level for international travel, telling Americans to avoid all international travel, an advisory that remains in place.
The Treasury secretary hailed domestic travel as a better option, though many states have traveler restrictions in place.
“The president’s also looking about ways to stimulate travel. We want people to travel safely, to be able to visit places safely,” Mnuchin said. “So as the economy opens up, I think you’ll see demand coming back. Our priority is opening the domestic economy.”
U.S. airlines hope that’s the case, but executives said they see little, if any, signs of near-term travel demand. United Airlines President Scott Kirby said Friday that travel demand is essentially “zero” and cautioned that could be the scenario into 2021.
He and Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines, said there is little impetus for most people to travel, even within the USA, until there are things to do when they get to their destinations, from eating at restaurants to visiting tourist attractions such as Disney World and Disneyland.
Mnuchin remains optimistic.
“This is a great time for people to explore America. A lot of people haven’t seen many parts of America,” Mnuchin said. “I wish I could get back on the road soon.”