Following the CDC’s announcement that all inbound U.S. travelers will need to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test, Caribbean destinations dependent on the American market are adapting to meet the new requirements.
Beginning Jan. 26, all international travelers, including U.S. Citizens returning from trips abroad, will have to provide proof of negative COVID-19 test results taken within three days prior to re-entry.
Airlines will be responsible for confirming the negative test result or documentation of recovery for all passengers before they board, and will deny boarding to any person who does not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery, or chooses not to take a test.
Concerns with the new policy have emerged, with questions about logistics, costs, and practicality. American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) President and CEO Zane Kerby said the new rules present a “logistics nightmare.”
The new rules will put added pressure on destinations, especially smaller Caribbean islands, to accommodate the volume of tests needed. It will also place an added expense for travelers, who likely will have to pay $100+ for a test out of pocket. However, in an effort to appeal to prospective guests, some hotels are offering tests at no cost.
For those visiting Aruba, the island said it has the facilities and procedures in place to meet the requirement for re-entry into the U.S.
Aruba has expanded testing and has state-of-the-art hospitals and medical facilities that offer PCR tests to outbound travelers, with an average turnaround time of 24 hours. The island’s main testing areas are conveniently located near hotels, and appointments can be made in advance, so U.S. bound travelers can ensure they’ll be tested before departing.
Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes, CEO of the Aruba Tourism Authority, said they “can reassure our travelers they will have easy access to testing in time for their departure.”
The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation said the island has successfully implemented stringent measures to protect its citizens, residents and visitors, and “is well positioned to adhere to this new order, seamlessly integrating the CDC’s testing requirements into The Bahamas’ existing COVID-19 protocols.”
Currently, visitors to The Bahamas who stay longer than four nights and five days are required to take a rapid antigen test on the fifth day of their stay, with a number of testing sites throughout The Bahamas approved to administer tests.
This means travelers readily have access to the viral tests, now required to enter the U.S.
“The Bahamas Government will continue to work in accordance with the CDC to curb the spread of COVID-19, which has been our top priority since the onset of this global pandemic,” said Dionisio D'Aguilar, The Bahamas Minister of Tourism & Aviation. “Our journey has not been without bumps in the road, but we have made great strides in combatting this virus as evidenced by the very low case numbers we have now achieved.
Many have worried that this new policy will hamper the travel industry’s recovery, which was slowly beginning to pick up. In an effort to reassure prospective travelers, some hotels will offer COVID-19 tests on site which guests can use to meet the new CDC requirements.
Saint Lucia said it is set to meet the demand for on-island Covid-19 testing and processing with multiple Covid-19 PCR and antigen (rapid) testing options. Travelers can obtain a Covid-19 test at select hotels or at local testing facilities, with test results returned within the requisite 72-hour time frame. There are additional options in development to expand testing locations. Travelers can make appointments for tests once they arrive on island or through their Covid-certified hotel. Pricing varies based on location and the type of test administered.
As of Jan. 14, the hotels and villas offering complimentary Covid-19 antigen (rapid) testing to qualified guests include: Anse Chastanet; all five Bay Gardens properties; Calabash Cove Resort & Spa; Caille Blanc Villa & Hotel; Cap Maison Resort & Spa; Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa; Jade Mountain; Ladera Resort; Marigot Bay Resort and Marina; Sandals Resorts in Saint Lucia; Serenity at Coconut Bay; Sugar Beach – A Viceroy Resort; Stonefield Villa Resort and Ti Kaye Resort & Spa.
More properties in Saint Lucia are anticipated to roll out complimentary testing in the coming weeks.
Steps are being taken to ramp up Jamaica’s COVID-19 testing capacity, in light of changes in testing requirements by the United States, which is the country’s largest tourism source markets.
Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett named a special task force to spearhead efforts to boost Jamaica’s COVID-19 testing capacity.
"This task force will work along with the Ministry of Health and Wellness and tourism stakeholders, both within the public and private sectors, to boost Jamaica’s capacity to facilitate wide scale COVID-19 testing for visitors to the island. We will also undertake extensive consultation with our local and international tourism partners to develop and introduce innovative solutions to effectively address this challenge," said Minister Bartlett in a statement.
Palladium Hotel Group
Palladium Hotel Group, which operates in popular Caribbean islands including the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, as well a Mexico, said it will have the PCR COVID-19 tests available – at a cost – at the property's Doctor’s Office, beginning Thursday. The doctor on-site will perform the test and the results will be available within 72 hours after. Guests will be able to schedule their appointment upon check-in at the hotel.
The all-inclusive resort operator will be making available through March 31st complimentary on-site COVID-19 testing, according to Sandals Resorts International. Tests will be conducted by approved and practiced medical professionals with our guests’ maximum convenience in mind and minimal distraction to their overall vacation experience. Once at the resort, the team will assist guests to make the arrangements required to schedule their COVID-19 test at the resort.
Karisma Hotels & Resorts
Karisma Hotels & Resorts announced a similar program on Thursday. The resort operator will offer complimentary, on-site COVID-19 antigen testing at all properties in the Riviera Maya region of Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica for guests who are traveling to the U.S. Testing will be available free of charge at the hotels for guests departing as of Jan. 26.
If a guest's return travel test results are positive, Karisma will provide quarantine accommodations until a doctor certifies clearance for travel with a negative test result for a period not to exceed 14 nights.
These amenities are available for guests traveling through March 31, 2021.
All resorts throughout Mexico and Jamaica will offer easy, on-site COVID-19 antigen (rapid) testing. Tests will be conducted oat no cost to guests (for up to two guests per room, with additional rapid tests will be available at a minimal cost of $19 per guest) traveling to the United States. Guests will receive their results within 30 minutes, and documentation will be ready for them to present at the airport. Guests can contact the concierge to schedule their departure test as soon as they check-in.
Should a guest test positive, Palace Resorts and Le Blanc Spa Resorts will cover the cost of quarantine for up to 14 days at no cost to guests, for up to two guests per room should both guests test positive.
COVID-19 antigen testing will be available on-property acorss all AMResorts' brands, at no cost to guests traveling to the U.S. On-site testing will be administered by Hospiten, an international private hospital network committed to providing a first-rate health care service for travelers, across most AMResorts destinations, except for Costa Rica, Curacao, St. Martin and Acapulco, Ixtapa and Huatulco, Mexico.
Test results will be received the same day in written format as required by the CDC. Guests can contact the concierge at each resort upon arrival to schedule departure testing.
If a guest receives a positive test while on property that prevents departure, the cost of quarantine at the property will be covered for up to 14 days. Extended stay due to quarantine includes the guest plus one travel companion sharing the same room. This policy will be available for travel through March 31, 2021.
Grand Hyatt Baha Mar
The Bahamas' Grand Hyatt Baha Mar is also offering on-site RT-PCR and Rapid Antigen COVID-19 tests for guests departing Nassau through June. Administered by professionals, on-site departure tests are optional for resort guests.
After making an appointment through the online form, with a 24-hour notice recommended, guests will be directed to resort’s Grand Club area where a Doctor’s Hospital staff member will conduct the test. The RT-PCR costs $134.40 (VAT included) per person, with results delivered in 6 hours or less via email. The Rapid Antigen test costs $16.80 (VAT included) per person, with results delivered in 60 min or less via email.
The resort has created a “Safe Travels” package that includes 2 RT-PCR COVID-19 tests at a discounted rate, with the option to purchase any additional RT-PCR COVID-19 tests at a discounted rate of $125/person.
In Central America, Costa Rica – another popular tourist destination for Americans – is coordinating with private laboratories certified by the Ministry of Health to administer the RT-PCR tests.
The Costa Rican Tourism Institute said the plan is to have these tests available to US travelers and tourists of other nationalities throughout the country, for less than $100 each.
Meanwhile, the Belize Tourism Board (BTB), after working with the Belize Ministry of Health and Wellness, said that testing will be expanded and made available to all passengers departing Belize for the U.S., which accounts for 70% of the country’s visitors. Further details including cost and testing locations across the country are forthcoming.