Caribbean Islands Are Starting to Reopen for Tourism

If you can prove you are COVID-19 free, all travelers are welcome to St. Bart’s as of June 22 without quarantine.

With low coronavirus numbers and economies heavily dependent on tourism, places like the Bahamas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Aruba are eager to welcome back travelers. Here’s how they plan on doing that safely.

This is a developing story. For the latest information on traveling during the coronavirus outbreak, visit the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

Having contained the coronavirus so far, several Caribbean island nations are announcing plans to reopen their borders to international travelers starting in June. With relatively low coronavirus numbers and highly tourism-dependent economies, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Antigua, and St. Lucia have already started to welcome back international tourists for nonessential travel as early as June 1. (If you’re wondering about the Atlantic island of Bermuda, they reopened their borders to international travelers on July 1, too.) 

In order to safeguard visitors and locals from outbreaks of the virus, the governments of these islands are working with public health officials and tourism boards to institute new cleaning protocols at hotels and airports as well as various social-distancing measures. Here’s what travelers can expect.

(We will update this article with information about other Caribbean islands once official reopening dates are announced.)

U.S. Virgin Islands reopened to nonessential travel June 1

As of June 1, the U.S. Virgin Islands—comprising St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas—started to welcome back leisure travelers, according to commissioner of tourism Joseph Boschulte. The U.S. territory has managed to keep its coronavirus numbers low with 122 reported cases of COVID-19 on the islands and 6 related deaths per data from Johns Hopkins University.

Previous restrictions only allowed USVI residents, business travelers, flight crews, health officials, emergency personnel, and government guests to travel to and from the islands. The U.S. territory never closed its airports, and incoming passengers who fell into the list above were screened for health risks and asked to follow stay-at-home directives for 14 days upon arrival. 

As of June 1, visitors no longer have to follow 14-day quarantine orders if they pass standard temperature checks and health screenings upon arrival. U.S. citizens are able to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands without a passport, but non-U.S. citizens will be held to the same government-mandated entry restrictions for entering the United States from any foreign destination. For the current airlift to the USVI from the continental United States, the tourism board is updating a Google document with relevant flight details.

Hotels, B&Bs, and vacation rentals like Airbnb were allowed to also start welcoming leisure guests again on June 1. In order to reopen, they are required to follow new cleaning procedures and social-distancing protocols developed in part with the government, tourism, and health authorities to protect guests and employees alike.

Once in the USVI, visitors must wear face masks inside businesses, and gatherings are restricted to 10 people or fewer. Bars and restaurants reopened on May 26 to dine-in guests at 50 percent capacity. Public beaches are open but social distancing is being enforced. 

Antigua reopened to the U.S. market on June 4

Antigua resumed flights from the United States on June 4, with daily American Airlines flights from Miami starting on that date. New York flights via JetBlue are expected to resume by July and via American Airlines in October. To be allowed into the country, travelers will need to wear masks in public spaces and provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival at the airport. They will also need to complete a Health Declaration Form and a Traveler Accommodation Form (to assist with contact tracing if necessary). Health screenings including temperature checks and a rapid antigen test will also take place upon arrival at the airport. Currently, there is no costs for these tests. So far, there have been only 70 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 3 deaths in Antigua, according to Johns Hopkins University’s official count. To protect locals and travelers, the government is implementing new processes, including building in breaks for taxi drivers to wash their hands at hotels after dropping off passengers. Hotels and resorts are starting to reopen and will be implementing new health and safety measures. In addition to electronic check-ins, housekeepers will also be placing a seal on hotel room doors after they are cleaned to give guests peace of mind. While masks will be required in common spaces where guests may come into closer contact with people, they will not be needed on beaches since social-distancing measures will be enforced. As a member of the Commonwealth, Antigua also hopes to welcome back British tourists as early as July but needs to have airlines like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic restore their service to the island first. Since anyone returning to the United Kingdom from abroad (including visitors and nationals) will be subjected to a 14-day quarantine, Antigua isn’t certain British travelers will be willing to travel just yet.

Courtesy of St. Lucia
The government of St. Lucia approved flights from the United States to resume on June 4.

St. Lucia reopened its borders only to travelers from the United States on June 4

St. Lucia has recorded only 22 cases of coronavirus and no deaths. Starting on June 4, the country began a phased approach to reopening tourism and started welcoming flights into Hewanorra International Airport from the United States only. However, American Airlines won’t resume its service from the United States to St. Lucia until July.

In order to protect locals and visitors during Phase 1, the government requires all visitors to present certified proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of boarding their flights and undergo temperature checks upon arrival. Travelers will be required to wear face masks and follow social-distancing measures during their stay on the island. Around 1,500 hotel rooms are slated to open in early June, once a new COVID-19 certification process for sanitization and social distancing is completed.

Phase 2 of the island’s new responsible approach to tourism will commence on August 1, 2020, with details to be revealed in the weeks ahead. For more information on St. Lucia’s reopening plans, visit stlucia.org/covid-19.

Jamaica reopened to international travelers on June 15

Starting June 15, Jamaica reopened its borders to international tourists once again. American Airlines flights from Miami and Charlotte to Jamaica have resumed, as well as United flights from Newark, Delta flights from Atlanta, and Air Canada flights from Toronto. Upon arrival, international tourists will be subjected to health screenings, including temperature checks and symptoms observation. However, COVID-19 tests will only be administered voluntarily to visitors with elevated temperatures or showing other symptoms. Those who are deemed high risk enough to warrant a test at the airport will be asked to self-quarantine at their hotel until the results are available. In conjunction with its government and the World Travel & Tourism Council (among other international partners), Jamaica’s travel industry introduced new cleaning, physical distancing, and face-mask wearing protocols that will be required at hotels, beaches, and tourist attractions and in public transportation and taxis. Some hotels like the Moon Palace in Ocho Rios and the Sandals in Montego Bay are already open to local travelers. The Caves Hotel, GoldenEye, and Strawberry Hill (all part of the Island Outpost hotel group) will remain closed through July 26, 2020. According to Johns Hopkins University’s data, Jamaica has confirmed 745 coronavirus cases and 10 deaths.

St. Bart’s reopened for tourism June 22

On June 22, St. Bart’s reopened its airport and started to welcome travelers from all countries as long as they can produce negative COVID-19 test results obtained 72 hours prior to arrival. If you aren’t able to get tested prior to departure, you’ll have to agree to be tested upon arrival and quarantine at your hotel or vacation rental until the test results are received (typically within 24 hours). If test results come back negative, travelers will not have to quarantine any longer.

Those who plan on staying in St. Bart’s for longer than seven nights will need to be retested on the seventh day of their trip. If at any point positive test results are received, travelers will be asked to quarantine for 14 nights or until they test negative. Children under the age of 10 won’t need to be tested.

To get to St. Bart’s, Tradewind Aviation resumed its scheduled shuttle flights and private charters between San Juan Airport and St. Bart’s Gustav III Airport on June 22. (Several airlines have continued service between the United States and San Juan throughout the pandemic.)

By June 22, several hotels also reopened, including Hotel Le Toiny and Les Ilets de la Plage. Both WIMCO (West Indies Management Company) and St. Barth Properties are welcoming reservations for villa rentals now. However, some big name properties are delaying their reopening until the fall. For example, the newly renovated Eden Rock isn’t expected to welcome guests until October 22, 2020, while Cheval Blanc won’t reopen until October 29.

People are being asked to practice social distancing and wear masks within enclosed spaces like airports and shops, but otherwise beaches and restaurants are open. St. Bart’s remained virtually untouched by the coronavirus pandemic with only six confirmed cases and no deaths.

Bahamas reopened on July 1

With just 104 confirmed cases and 11 deaths, the Bahamas started to reopen businesses with commercial activity resuming most recently on Cat Island, Long Island, Abaco, and Andros as of Monday, May 18. And on July 1, international commercial travel resumed, according to the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation.

Together with the Tourism Readiness and Recovery Committee, a group of partners from the public and private sectors, the tourism ministry implemented a phased approach to reopening with new health and safety protocols at airports, seaports, hotels, and restaurants.

Phase 1, which began June 15, actually allowed those with access to private jets, yachts, and boats to return before the wider July 1 date, in order to test the new initiatives with a smaller group of travelers. During this same time period, commercial airlines also resumed flights to the Bahamas to allow in Bahamian citizens, legal residents, homeowners qualifying for economic permanent residency, and the immediate family members or significant others of any of these people.

On July 1, all international travel resumed with the start of Phase 2 of reopening. Commercial airlines, including Southwest and American Airlines, are now flying into Nassau from the United States. Hotels and vacation rentals including Airbnb and HomeAway are also allowed to welcome guests again. (Atlantis and the Ocean Club, a Four Seasons Resort reopened on July 1, but Baha Mar has decided to postpone and hopes to reopen by October 2020.) Taxis and buses are also operational, but passengers are limited and required to wear face masks. Restaurants are also open, but buffets will be discontinued and staff must wear face masks and gloves.

International travelers are being asked to practice social-distancing measures and wear face masks while in public and transiting through airports. All incoming travelers will have to have their temperatures taking at airports and seaports before being allowed into the country.

Cuba reopened on July 1 and will isolate tourists from local population

Cuba reopened to tourism on July 1 with a new system that restricts visitors to resorts on five remote islands off Cuba’s northern coast for all-inclusive vacations, essentially isolating foreigners from the local population. To get there, tourists will need to take charter flights directly to the islands or fly to central Cuba, where they will take COVID-19 tests upon arrival. Those who receive negative results will be allowed to proceed to their hotels—or if they land in mainland Cuba, transfer to a bus that will take them directly to the resorts (stops will be prohibited and police officers will be assigned to each bus). Visitors will also not be allowed to rent cars or leave the fenced in resort areas.

Anyone who tests positive will be isolated via a combination of quarantining or being sent back home (details remain unclear at the moment). Because of U.S. rules that prohibit American visitors from traveling to Cuba strictly for reasons of tourism, these trips to coastal beach resorts will be off limits to U.S. citizens. So far, Cuba has recorded 2,399 coronavirus cases and 86 deaths.Read more details about Cuba’s new tourism system here.

Aruba will reopen to U.S. travelers on July 10

Aruba’s government will reopen its borders to visitors from the nearby islands of Bonaire and Curaçao on June 15. Then on July 1, visitors from the rest of the Caribbean (with the exception of Dominican Republic and Haiti), Europe, and Canada will be allowed to return.  Travelers from the United States won’t be admitted until July 10, while the official dates for travelers from other markets, including South America and Central America, is still being determined. Tentative dates for airlines to resume service to Aruba are listed on airportaruba.com. So far, Aruba has recorded only 105 positive cases of coronavirus and 3 deaths.

Upon arrival at the airport in Aruba, travelers can expect to undergo new screening measures including temperature checks. The tourism board did not have information yet on whether travelers will be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival or need to bring proof of immunity with them. Mandatory travel requirements will soon be available on Aruba.com.

To ensure the safety of both visitors and locals, the Aruba Tourism Authority together with the Department of Public Health is instituting a mandatory cleaning and hygiene certification program for all tourism-related businesses across the country. Businesses that pass muster after an on-site visit from the Department of Inspection and Hygiene will be awarded Aruba Health and Happiness Code gold certification seals.

Hotels will need to follow best practices guidelines distributed by the Aruba Hotel and Tourism Association. This includes new physical-distancing protocols like plexiglass barriers at desks, digital keys, and contactless check-in, plus elevated cleaning practices for luggage handling, food and beverage service, and more.

National parks and tourism attractions will also be required to adhere to new protocols to maintain proper social distancing. Aruba’s Arikok National Park is permanently banning ATVs starting June 1 from protected areas. Larger multi-passenger UTVs will also be banned in the park from October 31.

Puerto Rico reopens on July 15 with new coronavirus test requirements

Starting July 15, travelers who can produce negative COVID-19 test results obtained 72 hours prior to arrival will no longer be required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Puerto Rico. Arriving passengers who do not have test results available, refuse to submit to testing upon arrival, or test positive will be required to quarantine for 14 days and cover their own medical and extended stay expenses. Those who wish to be released from quarantine will have to undergo a molecular test and share the negative results with the government. 

Those who can produce negative test results upon arrival will be allowed into Puerto Rico, but they will need to follow locally mandated rules, including wearing face masks when in public, in taxis, and in hotels. As of July 8, there have been 8,745 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 159 resulting deaths in Puerto Rico, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Read more about Puerto Rico’s reopening here.

Turks and Caicos will reopen on July 22

Turks and Caicos plans to open its borders and welcome  international visitors starting July 22, 2020, with flight service returning to Providenciales International Airport from the United States, Canada, and Europe on that date. American, JetBlue, and United will start flights from Miami, Charlotte, and New York/Newark on July 22, with more airlift resuming in the following days. (Following guidance from health authorities, the government is delaying the reopening of the Grand Turk Cruise Center until August 31, 2020.) 

In advance of the border opening, hotels and restaurants will be allowed to reopen from July 6 to locals; however, some hotels like the Como Parrot Cay have delayed their opening date until August 1. So far, specific protocols regarding COVID-19 testing at the airports and cleaning procedures at hotels have yet to be announced as they are still being finalized by the government. There have only been 55 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Turks and Caicos and 2 deaths.

Cayman Islands unlikely to reopen on September 1

Earlier in May, the government in the Cayman Islands discussed reopening its borders on September 1, but Premier Alden McLaughlin now says that date is unlikely, local news source Cayman Compass reported.

“Given what I and everybody else is seeing in the United States, the September 1st reopening date is not looking good,” McLaughlin said at a press briefing on May 19. So far, the Cayman Islands have recorded 187 coronavirus cases and 1 death.

This article originally appeared online on May 19, 2020; it was updated on July 8, 2020, to include current information.

Source: AFAR

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