As COVID-19 restrictions ease all over the world, a few Caribbean countries have begun the process of reopening to tourists for the summer months. Each country has instituted a series of strict guidelines to protect not only its citizens, but visitors to the respective island as well.
As a whole, the Caribbean responded quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic and as a result, infection numbers have remained fairly low.
The Caribbean is beginning to open its borders to tourists © Steve Photography / Shutterstock
Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the country is reopening its borders to tourists on June 15. Jamaica will be implementing “re-entry protocols” that will factor in the risk level of where travelers are arriving from.
“Countries that have a similar management and profile result for the epidemic regarding spread, death rate, infection prevention and control measures, contact tracing protocols and other such criteria could constitute a ‘travel bubble’ that would determine the protocols that would apply to their entry,” said Prime Minister Holness in a press release.
According to the press release, all travelers entering the country “will be encouraged to undergo testing at the port of entry.”
Turks and Caicos
Turks and Caicos Premier, Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, announced the country would be reopening its borders on July 22. Flights from the US, Canada and Europe will resume “as soon as the destination is ready.”
The Providenciales International Airport will also reopen on July 22.
New health and safety protocols, which are slated to be revealed in the coming weeks, will be enacted and address training and personal protective gear.
“We are eager and excited to reopen our borders and safely welcome travelers back to the picturesque Turks and Caicos Islands later this summer,” said Pamela Ewing, Director of Tourism for the Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board via a press release. “In the meantime, we are taking every precaution to ensure the Islands are safe and to enhance the exceptional experience and care afforded by the destination and our world-class hospitality partners. Our intention is to cautiously reboot the tourism sector, laying the foundation for short- and long-term recovery.”
Dominican Today, an English-language newspaper based in Santo Domingo, reported the country will reopen its borders to visitors on July 1.
International flights are also scheduled to resume as part of the fourth phase of the country’s reopening plan.
Hiker standing at lookout towards Gros Piton © Justin Foulkes / Lonely Planet
The Minister of Tourism, Dominic Fedee, announced that the first phase of reopening St Lucia will begin on June 4. The plan will lift the ban on international flights from the United States only.
“[The strategy], protects nationals and visitors from the threat of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) through advance testing; daily screening and monitoring of staff and visitors; sanitization at various points throughout the travelers’ journey; and new social distancing protocols,” explains a press release from St Lucia Tourism.
Approximately 1500 hotel rooms in the country are preparing to open, pending completion of the country’s new COVID-19 certification process. New protocols for visitors include proof of a negative test within 48 hours of a St Lucia-bound flight; using a face mask and practicing social distancing upon arrival and being subject to temperature checks and screening by health authorities at ports entry.
Prime Minister Evelyn Weber-Croes announced a tentative time frame between June 15 – July 1 for reopening the island.
“As a country that is heavily reliant on tourism, we are preparing to once again receive tourists, but will do so only when the proper processes are in place to ensure the safety of visitors and our people,” said the prime minister in a May 8 press release.
The country has instituted island-wide protocols that “adhere to the highest standards of health, sanitation, and social distancing” according to the press release.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced plans for the country to reopen its borders on July 1. The deliberate approach will be based entirely on the number of COVID-19 infections in the country.
“We are looking at a possible date for commercial travel on or before July 1 of this year,” the prime minister explained, according to the Tribune News – a Bahamian news organization. “These dates may change depending on the circumstance. I want to repeat, however, that this date is not final. It will be adjusted if we see a deterioration of the COVID-19 infection trends or if we determine that the protocols and procedures are not in place sufficiently to warrant this opening.”
Carlisle Bay Beach at Antigua
Idyllic tropical Carlisle Bay Beach with white sand, turquoise ocean water and blue sky on the island of Antigua is stunning © BlueOrange Studio / Shutterstock
Antigua and Barbuda
The country announced it would welcome its first international tourists on June 4. Initial plans were to quarantine visitors for 14 days upon arrival, but policymakers quickly realized it would not be realistic.
“We think the average length of stay will be seven days and not 14 days,” Information Minister, Melford Nicholas told The Antigua Observer. “It’s not going to be feasible to impose a 14-day quarantine on a would-be visitor.”
There are still a number of guidelines and regulations that still need to be hashed out, like how much visitors will have to pay for a rapid virus test at ports of entry, but the country remains optimistic it can successfully reopen.
Gov. Wanda Vazquez announced the reopening of beaches, restaurants and other businesses for May 26, according to Travel Pulse. Though travel to Puerto Rico was never officially banned for US citizens, the tourism board has instituted a gold-star system for tourism-related businesses that adhere to the new, stricter health and safety measures.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell announced tentative plans to reopen the country in June.
“We collectively agreed to start gradually relaxing the restrictions for travel, as the pandemic in the region has been largely contained,” the prime minister said in an article posted in the Caribbean Journal. “Governments, airlines and hotels are now finalising the details of the phased re-opening. Assuming the requisite protocols are in place, we expect to open our borders in the first week of June.”
U.S. Virgin Islands
The U.S. Virgin Islands will reopen to “leisure travelers” on June 1.
“We did not want to rush to reopen in reaction to what other destinations are doing. Instead, we have engaged in data-driven, risk-based analysis, in conjunction with the Virgin Islands Department of Health and federal guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other stakeholders,” says Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte via a press release.
According to Boschulte, a series of new health and safety guidelines has been instituted for USVI Tourism.
Delta Air Lines announced June flights to Aruba; Bermuda; Bonaire; Kingston and Montego Bay, Jamaica; Nassau, Bahamas; Turks and Caicos; Punta Canan and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Croix; St. Maarten and St. Thomas. However, approval by those governments is still pending.
This article was first published on 22 May and updated on 4 June 2020.