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Caribbean Destinations Cautiously Reopen to Visitors

“All is irie” for international visitors to Jamaica,

who were welcomed back to one of the Caribbean’s most popular destinations beginning on June 15 – part of a wave of reopening announcements from a region seeking to rebound from the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the tourism industry.

 

The U.S. Virgin Islands announced its reopening on June 1, and Antigua and Barbuda opened its borders to international travelers on June 2. Both destinations reopened despite having a limited number of hotels, resorts, and other lodgings operating. Just nine of Antigua’s 40-odd properties were open on June 2, for example, and a disproportionate number of the USVI’s open hotels are in St. Croix. 

 

However, additional hotels in both destinations have announced reopening dates, including some that have plans to begin welcoming guests again at the end of the slow summer season.

 

For example, Sunset at the Palms, a boutique resort in Negril, Jamaica, will wait until July 15 to reopen, “taking a few additional weeks to ensure that the dozens of new protocols … adopted to enhance safety and sanitization practices are fully in place and tested before its first guests arrive,” according to a press release. 

 

“We’re delighted to once again open our doors to our guests, who have always been like an extension of our family,” said Ian Kerr, managing director for Sunset Resorts. “Our team thrives on taking superb care of those guests, and we’ve felt their absence not only at the hotel but also in our hearts. We’ve spent these past few months focused on all the positive changes we can make to ensure that everyone who comes here to escape the pressures of daily life – and those stressors have multiplied tenfold in the past several weeks – can enjoy a worry-free vacation.”

 

The Bahamas began allowing boaters, yachters, and private planes back into the destination on June 15, and will reopen its broader tourism sector on July 1. Commercial airlines, hotels and vacation rentals (including Airbnb and HomeAway properties), and transportation ranging from taxis to jitneys and buses will all be back online in July under Phase 2 of the Bahamas COVID-19 recovery plan.

 

Turks and Caicos has set July 22 as its reopening date. “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. “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.”

 

However, the cruise port at Grand Turk will remain closed until at least August, and no Caribbean destination has yet announced explicit plans to reopen to cruise ships.

 

Precautions

Each of these destinations has devised its own COVID-19 protocols, but Jamaica’s plan gives travel advisors a pretty good idea of what clients can expect if they decide to be among the first to venture back to the Caribbean.

 

Upon arrival in Jamaica, all visitors will be screened via thermal temperature checks and symptom observation. If a temperature is elevated, the visitor will be subject to additional screening, including testing, if needed. 

 

Any visitor who exhibits symptoms or is ill will be subject to quarantine for 14 days.

 

(Antigua will require testing of all hotel guests, with a $100 fee added onto the guest bill to pay for the test.)

 

Hotel employees will received temperature screenings at the beginning of each shift, with sick workers sent home. Employees will be required to wear masks, and social-distancing will be enforced in any areas where people queue or congregate, as well as in any dining areas. 

 

Guests will be required to wear masks in public spaces and when interacting with staff or other guests. Most activities will be shifted outdoors. Guest luggage will be left at the room door, not carried in by hotel staff. Mini-bars will not be stocked, and newspapers will not be delivered to rooms.

 

In restaurants, shared condiments and other shared items will be removed. Guests must wear masks until seated, at which point masks may be removed. (Sunset at the Palms will require reservations for dinner, a step that is not required under the government protocols but that other properties might adopt to prevent guests from congregating around the host stand and to use limited seating more efficiently.)

 

Pools and hot tubs will be open, with capacity reduced to 70 percent to allow for social distancing, which also will be enforced on beaches with wider spacing of lounge chairs. Casinos will be open but, again, limited to 70 percent of normal occupancy. Face masks will be required on the casino floor.

 

Spas will be open, but treatments involving touching of the face, nose, and mouth, such as facials, will not be permitted.

 

Bars and restaurants will also be permitted to open, along with most attractions, with social distancing, capacity limits, and sanitary protocols in place.

 

Under the protocols developed for the tourism sector by the Jamaican Ministry of Health, a special “COVID-19 Resilience Corridor” has been established along the coastline from Negril to Port Antonio, inclusive of the major resort destinations of Ocho Rios and Montego Bay.

 

Only hotels, resorts, and other lodging properties within this corridor that have been “trained, assessed, and cleared for opening” by the Jamaican government will be permitted to open during Phase 1; likewise, ground transportation will be restricted to licensed and approved vendors.

 

Jamaica’s health and safety protocols will be revisited every two weeks, with revisions made as necessary, officials said. The Phase 1 reopening rules will be in effect until June 30.

 

For the latest news and information, visit the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association at www.caribbeanhotelandtourism.com

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