Over the next few weeks, several Caribbean islands plan to cautiously reopen to international tourism, joining those destinations that have already reopened or that began phased operations in late May. No date has yet been set for St.Kitts and Nevis
Border reopenings are accompanied by strict new public health protocols and procedures, some of which require air travelers to produce proof of a COVID-free test result administered within 48 hours prior to travel.
The first flights to the Caribbean are from U.S. gateways. American confirmed that it began daily service from Miami to Antigua on June 4, its first international Caribbean destination since airports closed in mid-March. (Throughout the pandemic, the carrier continued flying to San Juan, St. Thomas and St. Croix under the jurisdiction of the FAA, although service was limited.)
In mid-June, American will begin service to Kingston and Montego Bay with other destinations to follow shortly.
JetBlue, Southwest and Spirit are expected to announce flight schedules this month, while Delta plans to return to several Caribbean routes in a limited capacity.
Here are the latest developments across the region:
• Antigua and Barbuda: V.C. Bird Airport reopened June 4, and American began a daily flight from Miami on the same day. Arriving passengers must complete a health declaration form as part of the screening process and submit proof of a negative virus test taken 48 hours before boarding. Face masks are required in public.
• Aruba: The country will officially reopen its borders for inbound travel for visitors from Bonaire and Curacao on June 15; the Caribbean (with the exception of the Dominican Republic and Haiti), Europe and Canada on July 1; and visitors from the U.S. on July 10.
• Bahamas: The country will reopen its borders, airports and seaports on July 1, according to the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation. Extensive health and safety protocols, part of a new Tourism Readiness and Recovery Plan, will be enforced to mitigate risks for all visitors and residents, according to Joy Jibrilu, director general.
Hotels will reopen on June 15 for staff to return to work and put in place measures required for the arrival of guests on July 1 when commercial airlines, both international and domestic, are expected to begin limited operations. Face masks will be required in public, and temperature screenings will be conducted daily.
• Barbados: Airspace is set to reopen to commercial flights within the first two weeks of July. Protocols for arriving visitors will be announced shortly.
Many businesses, services and sports activities reopened on June 15. Face masks are required in public, social events with up to 250 attendees are allowed. Restrictions on public parks and beaches have been removed, but a curfew remains in effect from Friday to Sunday between 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
• Bonaire: Bonaire is lifting its border closures on July 1 for visitors from the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and France. A maximum of 1,000 visitors per week is allowed. A negative Covid test must be conducted within 72 hours of the flight’s departure for Bonaire. The U.S. is not part of this reopening phase because it is still considered high risk.
• Cayman Islands: The borders, airports and seaports on Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are closed till Sept. 1, according to tourism minister Moses Kirkconnell. A curfew remains in effect on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac from 10 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. The curfew has been lifted on Little Cayman.
• Dominican Republic: International airports throughout the country are closed to commercial traffic to July 1, according to the Dominican Institute of Civil Aviation.
• Grenada: The tri-island destination of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique is preparing to gradually reopen its borders in the coming weeks. The Maurice Bishop airport in Grenada and the Lauriston airport in Carriacou are preparing for the restart of commercial traffic later this summer.
• Jamaica: Borders will reopen to international travelers on June 15. The Ministry of Health & Wellness will work in collaboration with the Airports Authority of Jamaica regarding screenings of arriving passengers. Tourists will undergo voluntary Covid tests but no quarantine.
Screenings will include electronic thermal scans. Face masks and social distancing in public spaces will be required of all persons, including visitors. This includes points of entry, ground transportation and accommodation facilities.
Within the next two weeks, Jamaica will review whether to reopen public beaches, water attractions and amusement parks.
The health and safety protocols run to more than 100 pages, and “are perhaps the most rigorous set available anywhere in the world to protect our workers and the whole country,” said Edmund Bartlett, minister of tourism.
While not all airlines have announced their schedules, it is expected that most of the major airlines will begin with limited service and will ramp up in the coming months, according to Bartlett.
• Puerto Rico: The island reopens to inbound tourism on July 15. All commercial flights use Luis Munoz Marin Airport in San Juan. The Puerto Rico National Guard is assisting with enhanced health screenings of arriving passengers, including the Rapid Covid-19 test. Arriving passengers may be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days, regardless of symptoms. Face masks are required in public. A curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. is in effect until June 30.
Beaches have reopened; limited group gatherings are permitted for those within the same household. Many hotels are already open. Hotel pools are limited to 50% capacity, as are restaurants. Casinos remain closed.
• St. Barts: The borders will reopen to tourism on June 22. Visitors must be tested for Covid 72 hours prior to arrival. After receiving the test result, visitors must send proof to their villa agency or hotel before arriving. Visitors with negative test results can move about the island freely once they clear immigration.
If a visitor arrives in St. Barts without a recent negative test, they will be given a rapid Covid test upon arrival and then asked to self-quarantine in their accommodations until the results are delivered (within 24 hours). If the test result proves positive, the visitor will be moved to the island’s quarantine centera set of apartments near the stadium in St. Jean. Local health care workers will take care of the visitor for 14 days or until a negative test is reached.
Many restaurants have resumed dine-in service with social distancing and safe serving practices in place. Beaches are open.
• St. Lucia: Hewanorra Airport reopened on June 4 in phase one of the country’s reopening plan, meaning that the borders are now open to all international carriers and to visitors carrying all passports.
The first flights are scheduled to resume in early July with American’s daily flight from Miami on July 7. Delta is posting early July departures from Atlanta and JetBlue from JFK.
St. Lucia requires proof of a Covid-free test prior to travel; temperature checks are taken upon arrival; visitors must wear face masks in public from arrival through departure, including during the hotel stay.
A list of hotels that have met the new Covid-19 certification process will be announced shortly. Hotels must meet more than a dozen criteria for sanitization, social distancing and other protocols before they can reopen to guests. Any arrivals not booked into a certified property are required to go into a 14-day quarantine.
In phase one, which runs to July 31, no sites or attractions are open, although some shops are. A number of restaurants are open for delivery and takeout services, but none offer seated service.
Phase two runs from Aug. 1 to Sept. 30, and phase three begins on Oct. 1.
• St. Maarten: July 1 is the earliest date that St. Maarten can reopen its airport, according to Lumila de Weever, minister of tourism. The tentative reopening date is dependent upon whether the island holds steady with no new Covid cases. The third phase of the reopening plan took effect June 1 and includes bars, dine-in restaurants with limited seating, hair salons, souvenir shops and retail stores. All remaining businesses are scheduled to reopen on June 15.
• Turks and Caicos: Borders, Providenciales Airport and private jet terminals will reopen on July 22. The Grand Turk Cruise Center will remain closed until Aug. 31.
Airline partners have confirmed flight service will resume from the U.S., Canada and Europe “as soon as the destination is ready,” according to Pamela Ewing, director of tourism for the Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board.
Hotels, resorts, villas, restaurants and tour operators are finalizing protocols prior to reopening.
• U.S. Virgin Islands: The territory reopened to visitors on June 1. New health and safety protocols for all tourism stakeholders have been rolled out in conjunction with the Department of Health and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.