Caribbean hotels are moving rapidly to offer COVID-19 tests on-site to guests, responding to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC’s) new requirement that international air travelers entering the United States produce a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of arrival.
The new rules — which also allow travelers to produce evidence of prior recovery from COVID-19 in lieu of a negative test result — go into effect on Jan. 26, 2021.
Officials say the new policy is intended to slow the spread of new, more infectious strains of the coronavirus, such as that recently detected in the United Kingdom.
Such proof is required even for travelers who have received the COVID-19 vaccine.
Airlines are instructed not to let anyone over age 2 board aircraft bound for the United States without producing a negative COVID-19 test result or proof that they have recovered from the disease. (Note that these orders do not apply to travelers from U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.)
The testing requirement sparked immediate concern among Caribbean hospitality officials and travelers alike — the former worried about the impact on the slowly recovering tourism economy, the latter worried about availability of testing in Caribbean destinations and the scenario of being stranded on vacation due to not being able to get a test, or testing positive for COVID-19 and being required to quarantine for an extended period before being permitted to return to the U.S.
The latter remains a concern — travelers who test positive on vacation will be required to produce a negative test result before they can go home. But many Caribbean governments and hoteliers are scrambling to ensure that testing is readily available for international visitors.
Anguilla’s Minister of Tourism, Haydn Hughes, expressed confidence that his country — which has had only 11 confirmed COVID-19 cases, would be up to the challenge. “Testing has been at the forefront of Anguilla’s reopening strategy — that includes testing on arrival and departure,” he said. “Therefore, 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.”
Hotels and resorts are taking a variety of approaches to providing testing, with larger properties predictably being the first to offer on-site testing to U.S. travelers.
Guests of the 603-suite all-inclusive Serenade Punta Cana Beach & Spa Resort in the Dominican Republic, for example, can get a COVID-19 antigen test in a private area of the resort if they are staying for four nights or longer. Testing, arranged by a partnership with Hospiten Hospital, will be done by appointment 72 hours priori to departure home to the U.S.; results of the antigen rapid test will be available within 20-30 minutes, and documentation will be provided in English and Spanish.
“Our guests will not have to worry about finding a testing location as Hospiten Hospital will provide a safe and easy option right here at Serenade Punta Cana,” said Aimee Tejeda, director of sales and marketing at the resort.
Jamaica’s Hedonism II resort will provide antigen testing free of charge to guests, who are instructed to make a testing appointment upon arrival at the hotel with the concierge. In the event of a positive COVID-19 test result, the resort promises to provide quarantine accommodations for the mandatory 14-day waiting period.
“We want to let our valued guests know that there is no need to cancel a reservation due to this new CDC order, as we are working to ensure that everyone can meet this government requirement in anticipation of their return home in a seamless and timely fashion,” said Hedonism II general manager Dermot De Loughry.
Likewise, all Karisma Hotels & Resorts in the Riviera Maya, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica will offer complimentary, on-site COVID-19 antigen testing to all guests through March 31, 2021, as well as 14-day quarantine lodging if required.
Another Jamaica resort, Half Moon, is framing testing as a guest amenity dubbed the Testing Concierge.
Guests arriving at the Half Moon Welcome Center in Sangster International Airport can arrange for a convenient time to take the COVID-19 viral test during their vacation, “thus ensuring minimal time is spent away from the resort’s sandy beaches, relaxing pools and numerous restaurants,” according to the resort.
The antigen tests will be conducted by Baywest Hospital, located in the Half Moon Village, and the Testing Concierge will ensure that all paperwork is in order for guests before their departure back to the airport.
Testing will come with a price tag at some other resorts, however. At Hermitage Bay in Antigua, for example, guests will be offered on-site Covid-19 RT-PCR (real-time polymerase chain reaction) testing, with a healthcare worker performing the swab test three days prior to scheduled departure to the U.S. The tests will cost $250 per person.
La Colección Resorts — which includes a host of properties across the Dominican Republic and Mexico, will offer travelers two options: free rapid antigen tests conducted at the resort, or PCR tests for an additional fee and conducted at local clinics.