Caribbean Nations Plan Border Reopenings

by Carolee Chanona

With economies heavily dependent on tourism, Caribbean countries like St. Lucia, Antigua, Aruba, and even Belize are eager to reopen their borders. Not to mention, CARICOM endorsed plans for a phased reopening of Caribbean borders solely to intra-regional travel in first instance, for as early as June. Given the COVID-19 crisis being “largely contained” within the region, this agreement was made following the 50th Meeting of CARICOM’s Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED). Across the region, Caribbean nation states have reacted to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic by strict protocols and travel restrictions. But when will the Caribbean reopen? Besides being a vacation destination, many second homes and part time residencies are stuck abroad. Unfortunately, there is no concrete answer. However, some Caribbean nations fire ahead with border reopening plans and safety protocols to one day welcome cherished travelers back. Here’s how they plan on doing that safely.

BELIZE

Belize’s International Airport (BZE) has a tentative date to reopen travel on July 1. While the country remains under a State of Emergency, health authorities along with Belize’s Tourism Board is busy preparing the new Health and Safety Standards for Belize. Not only will these protocols prepare the industry to welcome guests again, but reassure travellers of Belize being a safe destination. Belize now enters a new phase of easing restrictions for both domestic and international travel. However, that date is extremely tentative on no new coronavirus cases in Belize. Additionally, the decision to reopen the international airport is also contingent on what’s happening in the United States. Belize’s overseas arrivals have been restricted since since April 5, even to Belizean nationals. Belize has not reported a new case of COVID-19 since April 13, with its last two recoveries recorded on May 5.

ST. LUCIA 

Announced May 19, St. Lucia plans to reopen its borders to travel starting June 4. Additionally, St. Lucia will start by welcoming flights into Hewanorra International Airport from the United States only. Like Belize, St. Lucia reported a total of 18 confirmed cases of COVID-19, all of whom recovered. Tourism in St. Lucia employs more than 20 percent of workers and contributes about 14 percent to the nation’s GDP, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. Aiming to prevent new COVID-19 cases from entering the country while eliminating any potential spread of the virus, their multi-pronged approach requires both visitors and hotels to participate. Upon arrival to the island, visitors must present certified proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within 48 hours of boarding their flights. Health authorities at ports will conduct random screening and temperature checks on arrival.

For hotels to operate, they’ll need to apply for a COVID-19 certificate from the government that shows they’ve met more than a dozen criteria for sanitization protocols, social distancing, and other virus-related policies. Visitors must continue wearing face masks and practicing social distancing while on St. Lucia. Meanwhile, the island is working on new safety measures in taxis to separate drivers and passengers. Phase two of the Caribbean island’s reopening will begin August 1, with details to be revealed in the coming weeks.

ARUBA

Aruba is the first Caribbean destination to announce a specific date for a border reopening for travel. The Dutch Caribbean island announced earlier this month that the island has a “tentative re-opening of the borders for inbound travel,” with a scheduled date between June 15 and July 1. That is subject to change however, “as we may consider additional precautionary measures as needed,” Aruba’s tourism authority said on its website. The move comes after the Aruba Airport Authority recently announced it had begun preparing for a possible reopening. A potential reopening would come with a host of shifts to procedures. The Airport Authority detailed some, including social distancing, transparent shields at check-in desks and specially delineated lines.

THE BAHAMAS

Earlier this week, the Bahamas announced plans to hopefully resume commercial flights on, or before, July 1, 2020. Additionally, this Caribbean reopening is dependent on the number of COVID-19 cases in the Bahamas. Ultimately, this date can be adjusted. Not to mention, both airports and seaports are finalizing safety protocols for reopening for tourism. The Bahamas is presently entering phase 2 of its reopening strategy. Ultimately, the fifth and final stage is to resume international travel and tourism operations. The Prime Minister also announced plans for a COVID-19 travel card that will be used for domestic travel throughout the islands of the Bahamas. The administration has relaxed restrictions on more Family Islands, permitting the resumption of commercial activity on Cat Island, Long Island, Abaco and Andros. However, Exuma, San Salvador and Eleuthera are still awaiting the green light.

GRENADA

The Caribbean island’s borders could reopen travel as early as June 4. That is, if its government is satisfied with protocols recommended by stakeholders, according to Grenada Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell. Grenada had closed its borders in March to curb the spread of COVID-19. The move is part of a broader regional conversation on reopening discussed by Caribbean Community leaders. Governments, airlines and hotels are now finalising the details of this phased re-opening. Assuming that the requisite protocols are in place, Grenada expects to open their borders in the first week of June. In this new age of travel, many issues would also impact a potential Grenada reopening. None more crucially than the resumption of air service to the destination.

Feature photo courtesy Pelican Beach Resort.

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