Gay Nagle Myers
The recent CDC test requirement is the most recent challenge facing the Caribbean tourism industry.
Conclusion for US travelers on vacation in the Caribbean: After January 26th, proof of a negative Covid test (PCR or antigen) is required, which was carried out no more than three days before boarding in the US. Anyone who has tested positive for Covid-19 in the past three months must provide documentation of recovery that includes evidence of the positive test and a letter from a health care provider granting travel authorization.
The test requirement will likely result in some vacationers looking for test locations and then eagerly awaiting the results, rather than spending their final days on the islands relaxing on the white sand beaches.
A similar Covid-19 test requirement from Canada went into effect on January 7th and the UK on January 15, requiring all passengers flying to those countries to present negative test results to facilitate entry or avoid self-quarantine.
With the exception of the Dominican Republic, most Caribbean destinations require negative Covid test results prior to arrival, although the new regulation requires travelers to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to be tested prior to returning to the United States
The CDC hoped the testing requirements would slow the spread of the virus, which is now growing rapidly in the US, even if the slow rollout of the vaccine continues.
CDC Director Robert Redfield admitted that testing “doesn’t rule out all risks, but when combined with staying home and everyday precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer, healthier and more responsible by spreading it on airplanes.” , at airports and travel destinations. “”
Lindsey Epperly, founder and CEO of Epperly Travel in Atlanta, said the impact of the new CDC rules on testing in the Caribbean “will depend not only on location but also on resort choice.
“Quite a few resorts already have excellent access to on-site testing,” she added. “This removes the hurdle of finding a test location, making it easier for travelers to continue their vacation experience and get the test result within the required time frame.”
The Hyatt Zilara Cancun.
Properties in the Caribbean and Mexico are trying to start Covid-19 tests.
Epperly Travel is working to advise customers on the ever changing restrictions and guidelines related to Covid entry requirements, Epperly said.
“We give our customers the clearest possible picture of their options and do not encourage or discourage them to travel,” she said. “It is up to each customer to determine their level of comfort when traveling abroad, and for many, this is just an extra hurdle they are willing to take in order to enjoy their vacation,” she said.
Caribbean tourism officials reacted quickly to the new regulation.
The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) said the CDC testing requirement “poses a challenge to most small Caribbean countries due to the lack of availability and access to testing equipment and laboratory facilities to perform large amounts of PCR testing short turnaround time.
“Most of the region needs additional time to quickly build additional capacity beyond the short time window,” said Vanessa Ledesma, acting CEO and General Director of CHTA.
JamaicaTourism Minister Edmund Bartlett appointed a special task force to increase testing capacity in response to growing demand. The USA is the country’s largest tourism source market.
He said the task force will work with stakeholders from the Department of Health and Wellness and Tourism in both public and private sectors “to strengthen Jamaica’s capacity to bring large-scale Covid-19 testing to visitors” , he said.
On-site tests at selected resorts in Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Negril are in the works, according to the Jamaica Tourist Board.
The Bahamas is well positioned to adhere to the new order, according to Dionisio D’Aguilar, its Minister for Tourism and Aviation. Currently, visitors to the Bahamas who stay longer than five days are required to perform a rapid antigen test at a number of test locations approved to conduct the tests, which can be found at bahamas.com/travelupdates.
Baha Mar, for example, offers on-site Covid-19 tests on arrival and departure, with both PCR and rapid antigen tests available in the Nassau resort complex.
“Our journey has not been without bumps in the road, but we have made great strides in combating this virus, as evidenced by the small number we have achieved,” said D’Aguilar.
Eusi Skeete, US director, Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. says the country is in the process of developing a solution for travelers leaving for the United States and not burdening the current healthcare system.
A bright light for US travelers returning from the US Virgin Islands is that the test requirement does not apply to them. However, this applies to passengers entering the USVI from another country.
While the CDC requirements will “expand resources to all countries”, particularly with regard to the 72 hour window, Antigua and Barbuda “Up to the challenge,” said Colin James, CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Board.
According to James, health officials have more than doubled their laboratory testing resources to meet the expected surge in testing demand. Additional swabs and test kits have been ordered in anticipation of this development, he said.
Glenn Jones, Interim CEO of Bermuda The Tourism Bureau said: “We expect the government here to adapt quickly to the new pre-arrival testing protocols that many countries have put in place. Even before this solution is finalized, travelers can book their private test with a licensed doctor Negative Covid-19 test result within the required 72 hour turnaround. “Bermuda on the island testing resources are listed at gotobermuda.com.
Numerous comments from consultants on the Travel Advisors Selling The Caribbean Facebook page reflected frustration with the regulation. One agent wrote, “Let the cancellations come in … I can’t do this again.” Another said that “guests do not want to stop their vacation to take a test and the CDC has not considered the islands’ availability for Covid testing.”
Another agent tried to reassure her colleagues in the mail: “At the end of the day, the resorts won’t want to lose any business, so they’ll find a way to get their guests tested.”