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At least for now, many travelers are putting their Caribbean vacation plans on hold and taking a wait-and-see approach as COVID-19 travel restrictions evolve over the coming months.

There are, of course, exceptions to that rule, as Jemica Archer of Jacksonville, Fla.-based TruBlue Travels would be quick to point out.

Her clients, whose original vacation plans to Jamaica were impacted by the coronavirus, “were adamant that even with the new protocols in place and the country’s borders just reopening on June 15, they still wanted to go sooner rather than later,” she said.

Archer noted that she was “a little nervous” about rebooking clients so early in Jamaica’s reopening process, particularly because requirements for entry at reopening destinations seem to be “changing every day.”

She added, “There are so many different variables that go into trying to manage these reservations.”

Seventy-two hours prior to the trip, the couple was required to fill out a non-resident authorization form, which can be found on the Jamaica Tourist Board website, detailing their personal, health and intended stay information.

They then received an email confirmation authorizing their plans from the Jamaican government.

“This didn’t happen to my clients, but I’ve gotten feedback that if you don’t have the form completed the airlines can deny entry – so it’s very important that travelers complete the authorization forms,” Archer said.

The clients flew out of Jacksonville and connected through Miami and into Montego Bay,” she said, adding that they were not bothered having to wear masks on the plane because it was a short-haul flight.

Once on the ground at Montego’s Bay Sangster International Airport, passengers were taken directly to a sanitation station with “separate tables spread out for sanitizing and to complete forms,” Archer.

All told, the process at the airport, which required wearing masks, took nearly three hours, Archer’s clients told her. During the process, they repeatedly sanitized their hands and were given COVID-19 tests by Jamaica health professionals.

Once at the resort, they were required to remain in quarantine at the property for 48 hours until they received notification on their COVID-19 tests. While at the property, the clients were required to wear masks in all public areas, not at the beach or pool.

“If your results are negative, then you can do excursions and explore,” Archer said. “But you’re not supposed to leave until you get those results back.”

In the event that tests come back positive, “you have to leave the property and go to a government facility for 14 days at your own expense,” she said.

During their stay, the couple contacted Archer to help rearrange excursions, as some previously booked were not yet operational again.

Although her clients booked a five-day vacation, which, due to the quarantine, gave them only three days to explore the island, Archer said the trip was worth it to them because of their love of Jamaica.

Because of the two-day quarantine, Archer recommends that travelers book longer stays – although Jamaica protocols may be revised on July 1, possibly make the issue a moot point.

She is not advising her clients to immediately travel to destinations that have very recently reopened their borders to tourism. “I would prefer people give it some time and see how this all plays out,” Archer said.

But she is insisting that they buy travel insurance. “In these uncertain times, and with the timelines changings for country openings,” Archer said she is insisting that her clients buy travel insurance. “All you can do is advise and encourage travel insurance. I would rather lose the booking than take the risk. I’m requiring it for all clients.”

By Claudette Covey for Travel Pulse
Main photo: Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Photograph by Ruth Peterkin

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