Caribbean Travel Remains Popular

March 12, 2020 / Travel Market Report
Caribbean Travel Remains Popular Despite Coronavirus Panic
Turks and Caicos (pictured),  Anguilla, St. Barths, and more Caribbean destinations are all still accepting visitors amid panic over coronavirus (COVID-19). Photo: Shutterstock.com. 

While Asia and Europe continue to see significant drops in tourist arrivals due to the ongoing coronavirus scare, many travel experts are reporting that the Caribbean is doing just fine.

Georgiann Jaworskyj, an advisor with Custom Travel Services, Inc. in Merchantville, New Jersey, currently has a couple at Sandals Negril in Jamaica who is “having a wonderful time.”

“My clients are traveling to the Caribbean and Mexico,” said Jaworskyj. “They are trying to avoid the hysteria and panic. However, it is difficult to avoid the news, and friends and family trying to discourage travel. My European travel really picks up as of next week. I am more concerned with losing that business at this moment.”

Joey Levy, an advisor with EMBARK Beyond, in New York City, also reported a noticeable increase in Caribbean bookings. “We have seen a bit of a spike in Caribbean bookings from clients who are concerned about traveling to Asia and Europe,” said Levy. “Hotels are taking proper precautions and have an abundance of hand sanitizer on hand.

“I am pleased to see this as many Caribbean properties have been struggling over the last few seasons due to a combination of Zika fears and natural disasters such as hurricanes,” he continued. “The good news is that people are still traveling.”

Specifically, Levy told Travel Market Report that he has been seeing people traveling to Turks and Caicos, Anguilla and St. Barths.

As far as hotels go, he said The Four Seasons Resort and Residences Anguilla and Belmond Cap Juluca in Anguilla, the Grace Bay Club and Amanyara in Turks and Caicos, and Eden Rock and Le Barthelemy [Hotel & Spa] in St. Barths, have all been very popular.

“However, all of the Caribbean and Cancun/Riviera Maya have been great,” he said.

Sarah Bonsall, an advisor with Sunset Travel, in Scottsdale, Arizona, isn’t just telling clients most of the Caribbean is safe; she is also practicing what she preaches. Bonsall, her husband and teenage daughter will all soon be embarking on a vacation at the new Dreams Curacao Resort.

“I have had some calls with questions about the coronavirus, but thankfully, no cancellations yet,” she said, noting that she currently has clients in Jamaica and Dominican Republic. “I think a lot of people are waiting to see what will happen before making any decisions. From what I am gathering, there is a greater fear of being quarantined than getting sick. I have had some clients ask, ‘What happens if the border shuts down?’ I told them, in my opinion, that is extremely unlikely.”

And for those worried about being quarantined at a foreign hotel, Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s tourism minister, told Travel Market Report there are policies set in place that call for any sick guest to be immediately removed and isolated from the property without the rest of the guests being quarantined.

“When someone wants to understand the situation, they need to understand the science and the facts,” said Bartlett. “We are pursuing knowledge from all over the world. We are understanding more and more about the phenomenon and how it needs to be treated. We developed a strategy and a protocol on how to engage our own population as well as visitors coming to our shores.”

Lindsey Epperly, owner of Epperly Travel, in Atlanta, currently has clients staying at Amanyara in Turks and Caicos and others staying at The Shore Club. She also has guests at Jade Mountain in St. Lucia.

“We’re getting asked about [the coronavirus] for every area we cover, including the Caribbean,” said Epperly, “but after the initial question when we are able to educate the clients on the facts as the [World Health Organization] and [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] have laid them out, clients have been very happy to continue with their current vacation plans for trips that have occurred over the past few weeks and are occurring in the upcoming weeks.

“For us, when it comes to the Caribbean, every single client we’ve spoken with feels confident in their travel just as soon as we’ve had that touch-point conversation.”

Selena Bohinski, an advisor with First Class Travel, in Deptford, New Jersey, is heading to Beaches Turks and Caicos Village with her husband and two young kids. She has also recently booked clients to St. Lucia, St. Martin and Jamaica.

“We book a lot of Caribbean and Mexico and have a lot of people traveling, but no one has been concerned yet,” she said. “We have Europe travelers more concerned.”

Susan Collins-Peavey, owner of Susan Peavey Travel, in Massachusetts, said she has clients in Turks and Caicos, Punta Cana and Jamaica. James Berglie, owner of Be All Inclusive, in Arlington, Virginia, has clients in the Dominican Republic. Angie Courtney, an advisor with Sunset Travel, has clients in Montego Bay, Negril, St. Lucia and Punta Cana.

Also, Evan Croner, founder and managing partner at RNE Partners, in Las Vegas, said he is sending clients to Turks and Caicos on Mar. 21. He said the director of the villas where his clients are staying has already sent out a message saying, “Everything is safe and they are taking all measures to keep it that way.”

And it’s not just agents who are confirming the safety of the Caribbean.

Avid traveler Andrew Hopko, his wife and two daughters, recently traveled to St. Maarten from Feb. 15 – 21. Hopko told Travel Market Report they went to a different beach every day and ate at a different restaurant, and “didn’t see one person wearing a mask.”

“We also took a catamaran trip to Anguilla, and everyone was just having fun and drinking and partying,” he said. “Nobody seemed concern about germs or getting sick. In fact, the only time I recall seeing anyone wearing some sort of surgical mask was once we were back in the United States and flying from Charlotte to Detroit.”

Island precautions
The following information is according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization:

To date, there have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in St. Kitts and Nevis. However, in response to the coronavirus global outbreak and the subsequent international spread of the disease, the destination has strengthened surveillance and pre-emptive healthcare procedures at its air and seaports.

At St. Kitts’ Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport, all incoming air passengers to the Federation must at all times complete question #17 of the Customs/Immigration Form, which requires a listing of “countries visited during last six weeks.”

At the cruise port, inspectors from the Environmental Health Department board each vessel that docks to review the passenger travel manifest and all medical reports for any passengers exhibiting flu-like symptoms. Any passenger displaying such symptoms is not permitted to disembark.

Any and all incoming passengers who have traveled to or from any of the following countries within the last 14 days will be asked to provide travel history, history of exposure to the virus and contact information: China, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Italy, Japan and Iran.

Persons traveling to/from these destinations within the last 14 days are asked not to travel to St. Kitts and Nevis. Persons who do travel to St. Kitts and Nevis from these destinations will be subject to screening at the ports of entry and may be monitored by the public health team or quarantined at home or at a designated facility based on risk assessment.