By Da Lin

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A ban placed on international travelers to San Francisco and other cities across the U.S. from more than 30 countries during the height of the COVID pandemic was lifted early Monday.

Travelers will still have to prove they are fully vaccinated and show a negative COVID test before boarding a U.S. bound flight, but local travel experts say this is important and a big shot in the arm for San Francisco hotels and businesses.

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Business traveler Mariano Gon from Santa Cruz arrived at SFO Sunday evening.

“I just came back from Germany, The UK, and Italy,” said Gon.

He said he had successful meetings with his European clients who could not enter the country.

“It has been very difficult to get my customers into the U.S.,” he said. “In most cases, what I have been doing is travelling aboard to visit them.”

He said opening the borders will help him increase his customer base and grow his business.

“To be able to shake hand and to be in touch with your customers is always very good,” said Gon.

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The Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, including the San Francisco Fairmont, are starting to see a big boost in both international business and leisure bookings.

“Our phones were ringing,” said Michelle Heston, a spokesperson for The Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.

She said lifting the ban on international travelers will up lift the tourism industry.

“It can make up to 20 or 25% of our total customer base,” said Heston. “So it’s one giant step in the right direction.”

Any not just hotels, tourism experts said it’ll help small businesses.

“Before the pandemic, over 60% of all our visitor spending in San Francisco was done by international visitors,” said Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of San Francsico Travel. “They stay longer when they come. They go out to restaurants. They buy things. They go into our retail shops.”

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“It’s going to be gradual. I think it’s going to be two to four months before you see a real definite bump in numbers as far as people coming to San Francisco,” said David Perry, a market consultant at David Perry & Associates, Inc.