© The Author(s) 2022.Tourism is one of the most vulnerable sectors to pandemics. The number of cases and deaths caused by the pandemic directly affects travel decisions. Answering how the public perception of the pandemics affects visitor behaviour can provide important implications for the new normal in tourism. In this context, this paper investigates the impact of global pandemic uncertainty and pandemic discussion on visitor arrivals to the United States from the top 25 origin countries over the period 1999–2020. Non-quantile and quantile panel estimators are employed for heterogeneity and short–long run findings. Accordingly, in the short run, global pandemic uncertainty negatively affects visitor behaviour. However, the pandemic discussion does not have a significant effect. In the long run, pandemic uncertainty and pandemic discussion negatively affect tourist arrivals in all quantiles.