The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)’s new protocols requiring travelers returning to the U.S. to present proof of a negative COVID-18 has challenged Caribbean-selling travel advisors to again adapt to a new paradigm driven by the pandemic.
Edouard Jean, the owner of New York-based Massive Travels, said Thursday he had fielded calls “most of the day” from clients regarding the new rules.
“From a traveler’s point of view; this is going to add stress to one’s vacation,” said Jean, who believes travelers will have numerous questions including, ‘Where can I get the test? How much is it going to cost me?’ and ‘Will I get the results in time?’” he said.
As a travel advisor, “It’s going to be harder to sell to some clients who now have to take into account the extra hoops to jump thru and the extra cost for a family vacation,” Jean said. “And in general, who is to say you can’t become affected with COVID within 72 hours after getting a negative result.”
Nevertheless, some Caribbean resorts and destinations are already prepared to accommodate return-home tests mandated by the CDC changes. Here are the programs on tap at Caribbean hotels, resorts and destinations.
AIC Hotel Group
All-inclusive Hard Rock Hotels, UNICO 20º87º Hotel Riviera Maya and Nobu Hotel Los Cabos are offering U.S. residents free return-home antigen testing and complimentary medical assistance. Existing and new reservations of three nights or more booked by February 28, 2021, for travel between January 26 and December 31, 2021, will receive two complimentary antigen tests per room. Additional tests can be purchased for $50.
Complimentary onsite medical assistance applies to all existing and new reservations from countries requiring negative COVID-19 test results and traveling through December 31, 2021. The onsite medical assistance will cover the extended hotel stay and quarantine costs for guests who test positive for COVID-19 while at the hotel.
AMResorts is offering on-site, complimentary COVID-19 antigen testing and extended quarantine stay coverage to guests traveling to the U.S. “These new services support guest health, wellbeing, and peace of mind during vacation to meet CDC U.S. travel requirements,” said officials in a statement.
On-site property testing will be administered by private hospital provider Hospiten beginning January 26. Guests should contact the concierge at each resort to schedule departure testing. Guests who receive a positive test while on property will have quarantine costs covered for up to 14 days.
“With an increasing number of countries requiring a negative COVID-19 test result prior to entry, it is important that guests have an easy, hassle-free way to secure test results within the comfort and safety of AMResorts properties,” said Gonzalo del Peón, AMResorts’ group president Americas & Global Commercial.
Bahamas mega-resort Baha Mar offers PCR and Rapid Antigen COVID-19 tests prior to guests’ departures from the Bahamas. Tests are being administered on-property by Doctor’s Hospital Nassau with results returned on official letterhead.
The optional testing will be facilitated at the guests’ request. PCR tests cost $125 plus tax and results are provided within 24 hours (48 hours on Sunday). The Rapid Antigen test is offered for $25 plus tax with results that can be expected in one hour.
“As we embark on this new beginning, we are determined to make it easier for our guests to navigate the logistics of international travel in the current world by offering on-site testing solutions,” said Graeme Davis, Baha Mar’s president.
Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa
Saint Lucia boutique property Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa and sister resort Serenity at Coconut Bay are offering guests who stay five nights or longer complimentary rapid antigen COVID-19 “Return Home” tests prior to departure. Departure testing is also available for short-stay guests for $75 per person.
Guests facing post-travel testing requirements upon returning to the U.S. can arrange with Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa front desk personnel or with their butler at Serenity at Coconut Bay for an Abbot Rapid Antigen COVID-19 return home test upon arrival in Saint Lucia.
Couples Resorts will offer free onsite rapid antigen testing for all guests lodging at its four all-inclusive properties, Couples Tower Isle, Couples Swept Away, Couples Negril, and Couples Sans Souci. Tests will be administered by a contracted medical partner within three days of a guest’s departure date. Results will be available via email within 48 hours.
Private pool at Excellence Oyster Bay
With resorts in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Mexico, Excellence has partnered with certified local labs to provide COVID-19 free tests for guests whose home countries require a negative result to board a return flight.
Testing will be available on-site and free of charge for affected countries at all of the brand’s open hotels and resorts. “This new service will enable [guests] to remain at the property and get the necessary documentation to re-enter their destination of origin,” said Domingo Aznar, vice president of sales and marketing.
Palace Resorts and Le Blanc Spa Resorts
Palace and Le Blanc have expanded the Purely Palace and Purely Le Blanc programs to include:
– Now all resorts throughout Mexico & Jamaica will offer easy, onsite COVID-19 antigen (rapid) testing.
– Tests will be conducted on property at no cost to guests (for up to two guests per room) traveling to the United States.
– Testing and samples will be administered by experienced in-house lab teams.
– Results will be received within 30 minutes, and documentation will be ready for guests to present at the airport for their journey back home.
– Guests can contact the concierge to schedule their departure test as soon as they check-in.
If a guest tests 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.
Playa Hotels & Resorts
Playa Hotels & Resorts will provide free on-site antigen testing and discounted PCR tests from January 22 through April 30, 2021, for guests staying at least three nights in Mexico and the Dominican Republic and five or more nights in Jamaica.
In addition, should anyone test positive and need to quarantine, guests will receive a 50 percent discount on accommodations.
Sandals and Beaches Resorts
The Caribbean all-inclusive resort firm “will be making available through March 31 complimentary COVID-19 testing right in the comfort of our resort,” according to a statement. “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,” the statement adds. “Once at the resort, our team will assist the guest without difficulty to make the arrangements required to schedule their COVID-19 test on-site at the resort.”
PHOTO: Travelers in Anguilla. (photo by Brian Major)
“Testing has been at the forefront of Anguilla’s reopening strategy; that includes testing on arrival and departure,” said Haydn Hughes, minister of tourism.
“The CDC’s requirement for testing on departure for all visitors returning to the US is one that Anguilla has the capacity to handle in an efficient manner. We are in fact already providing this service on request to guests.”
Hughes added that Anguilla, noted for its strict COVID-19 protocols, is increasing its testing capability “to ensure that we meet the anticipated demand.”
He added, “We have taken every precaution and introduced stringent protocols to ensure the health and safety of both our visitors and our residents. Our effective management of this disease has resulted in just 11 cases since we reopened our borders last November and no community spread.”
“All necessary facilities and procedures” are available for visitors requiring COVID-19 testing while in Aruba as a requirement for re-entry to their country, said Aruba Tourism Authority officials in a statement. “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 statement adds.
Aruba’s primary testing areas are locatedin close proximity to hotels, and appointments can be made in advance, officials added. “The Aruba Government and Department of Public Health were prepared for the CDC’s new mandate and can reassure our travelers they will have easy access to testing in time for their departure,” Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes, the Aruba Tourism Authority’s CEO.
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Kitts & Nevis requires travelers staying fewer than seven days to take an exit test 72 hours prior to departure, while those staying longer than seven days can schedule an exit test through their hotel front desk, said a St. Kitts Tourism Authority spokesperson.
Travelers staying in hotels should inform the front desk, who will arrange testing onsite. Travelers not in hotels can arrange testing by calling 869-467-1273 or by visiting the Health Centre in Basseterre or consulting a government-approved doctor.