After months of hard work to combat the spread of COVID-19, while navigating unprecedented economic and social turmoil, some Caribbean islands are preparing to reopen. These are not decisions that have been made without great efforts by health officials and local governments to determine what is best for their citizens. That is why, while some islands have already reopened, others are maintaining a strict “wait and see” strategy, because the fear of eliminating progress and putting more people at risk is real.
Even the islands that have reopened have done so with extensive rules and guidelines in place, and no traveler should assume that booking a trip at this time should be done without thorough research and understanding of testing rules and social expectations. This information is far from complete but will be updated in the coming weeks as more islands and properties clarify their guidelines and protocols.
If you have chosen to travel, please be safe and take the time to read the safety guidelines that are linked below. Pack your masks and travel bottles of hand sanitizer and remember to be more courteous than ever to the employees at airports, resorts, restaurants and in public transportation, as they work to provide you with the best service within the protocols established by their governments.
While Anguilla has experienced incredible success in limiting its COVID-19 cases to just three people, with 100 percent recovery, the island’s Ministry of Health is still being extremely cautious about reopening. On April 29, after announcing no active or suspected cases of COVID-19, all restrictions on movement and gatherings were lifted. However, as Donna Daniels-Banks, chairperson of the Anguilla Tourist Board, recently explained to the Vancouver Courier, officials are “remaining vigilant.”
“Destination protocols for opening are being finalized with the Ministry of Health,” she said, adding that the island’s stakeholders “will have to have a well thought out plan in place to make the entire experience feel safe for travelers going forward.”
However, she did not offer any specific or estimated dates. According to the Frangipani Beach Resort’s most recent update, the hotel officials expect to welcome guests at some point this summer.
Antigua and Barbuda
Using a phased and controlled approach, the islands of Antigua and Barbuda recently reopened and welcomed the first flight from the U.S. on June 4. Colin James, the CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, explained that officials “worked diligently across all sectors on the islands as well as in collaboration with our Caribbean neighbors to prepare for the new normal and to ensure a healthy and safe environment for all.”
Per the Phase One protocols, arriving passengers must complete a health declaration form and undergo screenings and thermal checks. They must also have masks when they disembark, and those must be worn in all public areas. There are strict rules for airport transfers and arrivals by sailing craft, while all hotels and resorts must be certified by the Ministry of Health Wellness and the Environment before reopening, while satisfying all additional stipulations. The complete list of Phase One safety measures and requirements can be read on the tourism authority’s website.
On June 10, the Aruban government officially announced the reopening of its borders and resumption of inbound travel, and on June 15 travelers from Bonaire and Curaçao were welcomed, with visitors from Europe, Canada and most other Caribbean nations following on July 1. Travelers from the U.S. will be able to visit beginning on July 10; however, residents of at least 24 states must take a PCR test and upload the negative results within 72 hours of departure, and unlike other destinations, Aruba will not offer testing upon arrival for travelers from these specific states. This is just one aspect of Aruba’s Traveler Health Requirements, so make sure you’re up to speed before booking.
Resorts like the Divi and Tamarijn Aruba All Inclusives reopened on June 27, implementing the ”Clean Check Program,” which follows recommendations and guidelines from the CDC, WHO and the Aruba Ministry of Health’s Gold Seal validation.
Renaissance Aruba, with its legendary flamingoes, reopened on June 30 and introduced a bevy of safety procedures and the ”Commitment to Clean,” including “at-home to in-room” check-ins, which gives guests the ability to check in via the Marriott Bonvoy app. Additionally, the Wind Creek Crystal and Seaport Casinos will operate under a reservation system, and the Renaissance Island transport boat will have a reduced capacity.
The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation, in cooperation with the Tourism Readiness and Recovery Committee, initially announced that international commercial travel would resume on July 1, and sure enough the country (which isn’t technically in the Caribbean, but we’re including here for convenience) welcomed its first international flights on July 2. With the Tourism Readiness and Recovery Plan, which serves as “an approved, comprehensive guide of health and safety protocol,” in place, all seemed well enough.
Unfortunately, on July 19, the Prime Minister, The Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis, announced the difficult decision to roll back one aspect of the reopening process: commercial flights and vessels carrying passengers from the United States are not welcome at this time because of the rising number of cases. Travelers from Canada, the EU and United Kingdom are still welcome, so long as they have proof of a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR test taken within the last 10 days, and U.S. citizens can still enter via private aircraft or charter.
It wasn’t just the government making difficult decisions. Atlantis Paradise Island was set to reopen its doors on July 7; however, the date was moved to July 30.
The Ministry is asking that visitors still adhere to the Healthy Traveler Campaign, which requires social distancing, mask use and plenty of hand washing.
Following a very focused, phased effort to eliminate the virus and reopen the economy, without rushing to resume tourism, Barbados is officially reopening its borders to international travelers on July 12. For travelers from the U.S., the wait will be a little longer, as JetBlue flights will resume on July 25 followed by American Airlines on August 5.
Of the decision, and following 35 consecutive days with no new cases, Prime Minister the Hon. Mia Amor Mottley explained: “This is testimony to the will, discipline and commitment of Barbadian people…the health authorities, the frontline workers, the essential services, the social partnership, the media, the police, those on the borders, all have been integral to the success we have had thus far in tackling this pandemic. And more so, each and every Bajan in every house and in every community.”
There are still strict protocols in place, such as travelers from high-risk countries needing to complete a Covid PCR test within 72 hours of departure. Travelers from low risk countries have one week. Any travelers who arrive without a proof of negative test will be tested and possibly quarantined at their own expense. All travelers are required to complete a new online Embarkation/Disembarkation card (ED card) with personal health questions relating to Covid symptoms. And don’t forget your face masks, because they will be required on flights and in all public spaces.
On May 15, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management extended Bonaire’s flight ban to June 15. While Tourism Bonaire hasn’t posted any updates since May 19, Delta revealed last week that it will resume Saturday service to the Dutch Caribbean island in the second half of June. That news should be monitored for further clarity in the coming weeks.
British Virgin Islands
As of June 2, hotels and other lodging facilities are able to register for inspections to operate, according to the Government of the Virgin Islands. This week also saw two flights with Virgin Islanders return for the first time since March 22, when the BVI’s borders were closed.
Governor Augustus J.U. Jaspert praised residents for their efforts in social distancing, but he also stressed the importance of maintaining those efforts to eliminate risk for the eventual reopening. While he announced reduced curfew hours to allow for longer evenings, Jaspert offered little else in terms for travel dates or a projected window.
The Cayman Islands’ three airports were closed on March 22, following the first reported case, and government officials declared they would remain closed through at least September 1. However, this week, Premier Alden McLaughlin admitted that reopening by then is “not looking good,” as he explained that the decision to open the borders will ultimately rely on the efforts of other islands and nations in combating the virus.
After “totally lifting” the island’s curfew and beginning site inspections for hotels and resorts, Curaçao reopened to travelers from select markets on July 1. Canada, Belgium, China, Germany, France, Italy, The Netherlands and Spain have all been invited to return to this Dutch Caribbean paradise, which also introduced its “A Dushi Stay the Healthy Way” hospitality protocol.
As part of this effort, the reopening will be phased in terms of which countries will be welcomed. The first phase was a test run with the Dutch Antilles and now phase two includes the aforementioned nations.
But before they’ll be permitted to enter, travelers must complete three important steps. First, the completion of the digital immigration card. Second, the Passenger Locator Card must be filled out and printed within 48 hours of departure. Third, present proof of a negative PCR test within 72 hours of departure. The Curaçao Tourist Board also created a mobile app that compiles all Covid info and protocols for visitors.
Dominica currently has no targeted date for reopening, but Dr. Irving McIntyre, Minister of Health, Wellness and New Health Investment, recently announced new easing of restrictions after nearly 50 days since the last confirmed case. Curfew hours were reduced and restaurant hours extended, although he encouraged residents to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
With limiting the importation of COVID-19 a top priority, Dominica’s government is developing a plan for opening its borders, but Roosevelt Skerrit, the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica, suggested in May that “at least regional travel” could be possible by mid-July.
The Dominican Republic entered Phase One of its “de-escalation process” on May 20, with the borders remaining closed and all flights suspended. Phase Two, which was slated to start this week, would see the relaunch of shopping centers and private transportation. If all goes to plan, Phase Four would begin on July 1 and include the reopening of the airports, restaurants and hotels.
In a national address in early May, Prime Minister Keith Mitchell announced that Grenada could reopen its borders in June, so long as the government was encouraged by protocols and progress by the airlines and hotels, among others.
The popular Calabash Luxury Boutique Hotel currently lists no reopening date, while Sandals previously included its Grenada property among the Caribbean hotels that were set to reopen on June 4 under the chain’s “Platinum Protocols of Cleanliness.” However, multiple dates have already changed, per government announcements and tourism boards, so we expect Sandals’ dates to adjust accordingly.
The Guadeloupe Islands
In March, all international flights to the Guadeloupe Islands were suspended for a 30-day period, but the borders have remained closed as local officials remain vigilant. Even as the French government lifted its lockdown orders in early May, the Guadeloupe Islands’ mayors overwhelmingly chose to keep schools closed until at least September. As such, there is currently no set target date for reopening the islands to visitors.
Jamaica is set to reopen its borders on June 15, following a series of controlled re-entries and subsequent quarantines of citizens who have been stranded abroad. This does not mean, however, that major hotels will be ready to open immediately. Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall, for example, is accepting reservations for stays beginning on July 1, while Excellence Oyster Bay will reopen in line with its DR sister properties on August 28.
Couples Resorts announced that its Jamaican properties will reopen on July 1 under the chain’s “Good Clean Fun” initiative, which includes enhanced health and safety protocols for everything from airport transfers to a dedicated on-site detection team.
Like the Guadeloupe Islands, Martinique’s officials have maintained a focus on eliminating the spread of COVID-19 since France lifted its lockdown orders on May 11. Since then, residents have practiced social distancing, worn masks and kept gatherings to groups of less than 10, but a state of health emergency has been in place through at least June 1.
Following the lockdown update, François Baltus-Languedoc, CEO of the Martinique Tourism Authority, explained that Martinique was working closely with its French Caribbean counterparts, but there remains no specific target date for reopening.
Despite having no new recorded cases since April 12, Montserrat’s Premier, Joseph E. Farrell, urged citizens in late May to remain focused on keeping the curve flattened by continuing to wear masks and practice social distancing. At the same time, the government kicked off conversations with stakeholders to discuss a phased reopening, but like the rest of the French Caribbean’s islands, there is currently no set date for reopening the tourism sector.
In late May, Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced announced the reopening of public beaches, natural reserves and golf courses, as part of a four-phase plan. As such, tourism is already underway, but potential visitors must be aware of the locally enforced hygiene and safety measures that have been developed by local agencies, in cooperation with the U.S. Travel Association.
All arriving passengers are subject to health screenings that will include COVID testing, and they may be asked to self-quarantine. Curfews are in place and restaurants have a maximum occupancy of 25 percent, with face masks strictly required in public. Complete details are available from the Puerto Rico Tourism Company.
With one of the lowest total case numbers in the world and following a two-month period of no new cases, St. Barth reopened its borders on June 22. The tourism committee cooperated with the French government to establish health and safety protocols for the protection of both locals and visitors. Visitors must provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test administered with three days of travel, and anyone staying longer than seven days must submit to a second test from island health officials on the seventh day. Masks are also required to be worn in the airport at all times, as well as in any indoor establishments.
Island officials hope that this year’s Gourmet Festival, which takes place from November 11-15, will be among the best in the event’s history.
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Kitts and Nevis hold the distinction of being the last destination in the Americas to confirm a case, and by May 18’s official announcement, all 15 cases had recovered and almost 30 days had passed since the last case was reported. That good news was enough for officials to ease some local restrictions, but borders remain closed for these islands, at least through June 13.
Phased reopening for this beloved romantic destination began on June 4, as part of the government’s phased approach for the tourism sector. However, before anyone books a flight, there are strict entry requirements that must be met, including proof of a negative test taken within 48 hours of boarding a flight.
As many as 1,500 hotel rooms have been prepared for the island’s reopening, but all hotels must achieve Covid-19 Certification by meeting “specific criteria for sanitization, physical distancing and other Covid-19 protocols.” Local activities will also be limited, so operators are working diligently to ensure that visitors have the best time possible.
On July 9, Saint Lucia rolled out updated travel protocols, including a list of destinations with zero or a low instance of cases from which visitors would be exempt from the seven-day pre-testing requirement. These include: Antigua, Barbuda, Aruba, Anguilla, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Curaçao, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Monsterrat, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Martin, Trinidad and Tobago and Turks and Caicos.
For everyone else, a negative test result from within seven days of travel must be provided upon arrival, and anyone who somehow doesn’t bring this will be subject to isolation, testing and possible quarantine.
Sint Maarten and St. Martin
While they’re different countries, Sint Maarten and St. Martin are focused on cooperation in their effort to return to normalcy. The Dutch and French governments have respectively resumed some island business already, but both are being extremely cautious at their border in regard to non-essential travel (workers must obtain signed waivers to cross the border).
On May 8, St. Martin reopened its beaches for locals, and three days later many businesses were allowed to resume operations. That same day, Sint Maarten officials launched Phase One of their four-phase “Business Community” reopening plan, but even as Phase Four’s targeted launch date of June 15 approaches, there is no inclusion of a target date for opening either country’s borders to international travelers, despite Air Caraïbes previously announcing that flights would resume from Paris to Sint Maarten on July 3.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Crew members from multiple cruise lines were repatriated from the U.K. this week as St. Vincent and the Grenadines focuses on reducing the risk of new infection. With so many Vincentians still returning home, it is unlikely this destination’s borders will open soon, and there is no targeted reopening date, as the government is currently still weighing school decisions.
Trinidad and Tobago
Keith Rowley, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, announced last month that the phased reopening of the economy was ahead of schedule, as Phase Two began several days ahead of the targeted date. While restaurants reopened in Phase One, the second effort marked the restart of manufacturing and construction businesses, and Phase Three would see the entire public sector return to flexible work schedules.
Phase Six includes the reopening of borders, although there is no target date set at this time.
Turks and Caicos
While the Providenciales Airport was originally scheduled to reopen on June 1, the new date is July 22. The Grand Turk Cruise Center’s reopening has also been delayed from June 30 to August 31.
Most resorts are expected to reopen with the airport, or soon after. For example, the Turks and Caicos Collection, featuring the Blue Haven Resort, Beach House, Ambergris Cay and Alexandra Resort, will reopen immediately, while Club Med Turkoise will reopen on August 1.
U.S. Virgin Islands
The USVI officially reopened on June 1, following the tourism commissioner’s declaration of confidence that the territory was once again ready to welcome guests. Bars and restaurants were previously given a green light for a “soft opening” to ensure establishments were prepared to operate under new restrictions, which include face masks, sanitization stations, social distancing between tables and no groups larger than six people.
Not all hotels have reopened—the Ritz-Carlton on St. Thomas currently does not list availability and instead redirects to the Carambola Beach Resort on St. Croix, for example—and there are health and safety protocols in place for both visitors and the island’s tourism stakeholders.