Courtesy of St. Lucia
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U.S. citizens do not need a passport to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands, which will reopen on June 1 to nonessential travelers.
With economies heavily dependent on tourism, places like the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Lucia, and Aruba are eager to welcome back travelers. Here’s how they plan on doing that safely.
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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 tourists starting this June. With relatively low virus numbers and highly tourism-dependent economies, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Aruba, St. Lucia, and several more are preparing to welcome back international tourists for nonessential travel from as early as June 1, 2020.
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.)
Antigua will allow flights from the United States to recommence on June 4, with an American Airlines flight from Miami on that date and New York flights expected later in the summer. To be allowed into the country, travelers will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival at the airport. So far, there have been only 25 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 3 deaths in Antigua, according to Johns Hopkins University’s official count.
In order to protect locals and travelers, the government will implement new processes, including building in breaks for taxi drivers to wash their hands at hotels after dropping off passengers. Prime Minister Gaston Browne also told the Miami Herald that they are considering confining travelers to hotels during their stay to prevent them from mingling with locals. Hotel employees will also need to live on property once hotels reopen to limit potential community spread.
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.
Aruba’s government tentatively plans to reopen its borders for inbound travel sometime between June 15 and July 1, 2020. A formal announcement will be announced in the coming weeks, as the government considers additional precautionary measures. The government has not specified if travelers will be subjected to quarantine measures upon arrival or if residents from specific nations will be banned. So far, Aruba has recorded only 101 positive cases of coronavirus and 3 deaths.
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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.
Outdoor restaurants are scheduled to reopen in Aruba on May 25, but all residents and tourists will be expected to adhere to a curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. for the foreseeable future.
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.
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.
With just 96 confirmed cases and 11 deaths, the Bahamas has started to reopen businesses with commercial activity resuming most recently on Cat Island, Long Island, Abaco, and Andros as of Monday, May 18. However, nonessential travel won’t come until later this summer.
“As of now, we are looking at a possible opening date for commercial travel on or before July 1,” Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said in a radio and television broadcast on May 17. “These dates may change depending on the circumstances. It will be adjusted if we see a deterioration in the COVID-19 infection trends or if we determine that the protocols and procedures are not in place sufficiently to warrant an opening.”
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 111 coronavirus cases and 1 death.
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With borders closed to international tourists since March 23, St. Lucia has recorded only 18 cases of coronavirus and no deaths. Starting on June 4, the country will begin a phased approach to reopening tourism and will start by welcoming flights into Hewanorra International Airport from the United States only.
In order to protect locals and visitors during Phase 1, the government will require 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.
As of June 1, the U.S. Virgin Islands—comprising St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas—will welcome back leisure travelers, according to commissioner of tourism Joseph Boschulte. The U.S. territory has managed to keep its coronavirus numbers low with only 69 reported cases of COVID-19 on the islands and 6 related deaths per data from Johns Hopkins University.
Current restrictions only allow 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.
Starting June 1, visitors will not have to follow 14-day quarantine orders anymore 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 will be allowed to also start welcoming leisure guests again on June 1. In order to reopen, they will be 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. While bars and restaurants reopened on May 26 to dine-in guests at 50 percent capacity, casinos and nightclubs remain closed. Public beaches are open but social distancing is being enforced.
This article originally appeared online on May 19, 2020; it was updated on May 27, 2020, to include current information.