Novak Djokovic said to be an example of how the US is leaving tourist dollars on the table

Novak Djokovic

World No 1 Novak Djokovic being denied entry into the United States has been said to be an example of the United States leaving billions of tourist dollars on the table.

US Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman has warned Joe Biden that his government ‘outdated vaccine policy’ has contributed to a $80 billion (£67bn) loss in foreign traveller spending.

World No 1 Djokovic will not play in the Masters 1000 this week because his request for special permission to visit the United States was denied.

The Serbian legend, who is perhaps the best-known athlete to have refused the Covid 19 vaccine, had applied to U.S. authorities for an exemption that would have allowed him to return to compete in one of tennis’ most prestigious tournaments.

Under U.S. entry regulations, however, foreign visitors must present a vaccination certificate to gain entry until at least 10 April 2023; Djokovic’s desperate attempts to secure entry fell on deaf ears though.

Tennis fans have reacted angrily to Djokovic’s absence from the Indian Wells tournament, which is a major setback for the tournament’s organizers in California.

Freeman described the government’s stance as an unforced error as he feels the regulations are strangling the tourism and hospitality sectors.

He said: “America’s outdated vaccine policy for international visitors is an unforced error that is contributing to an $80 billion (£67bn) loss in foreign traveller spending.

“Novak Djokovic is merely one of millions of travellers deterred from visiting the United States due to a well-intended but antiquated policy. It is well past time for the United States to join with its peers in Europe, Australia and elsewhere and remove pandemic vaccine requirements for our international guests.”

Last weekend, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and the US Open expressed their support for Djokovic, saying they were “hopeful” to see him compete at the Indian Wells tournament in California.

“Novak Djokovic is one the greatest champions our sport has ever seen. The USTA and US Open are hopeful that Novak is successful in his petition to enter the country, and that the fans will be able to see him back in action at Indian Wells and Miami,” the official US Open account tweeted.

While he also missed the US Open last year, Djokovic is expected to return to Flushing Meadows for the summer major which will take place well after travel restrictions are lifted in early April or May.

Djokovic snatched his 22nd Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open earlier this year with a victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final, having returned to the event for the first time since his entry debacle in January 2021.

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