The CDC’s order requiring travelers to submit a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding a flight to the United States on June 12 has officially been rescinded.
This news, along with Antigua’s already relaxed COVID protocols, has tourism board officials and travel agents excited about the potential for sale in Antigua and Barbuda going forward.
“The fact that we do not require passengers to be vaccinated to enter the destination, combined with convenient travel protocols, we have seen an uptick in our traveler arrivals,” said Dean Fenton, US Director of the Tourism Authority of Antigua and Barbuda.
He noted, “In addition, all of our opened hotels must be COVID certified, along with our taxis, so passengers vacationing at our Twin Island destination feel safe and comfortable.”
The Travel Market Report (TMR) recently spoke to some of the top Caribbean travel professionals to find out what travel to Antigua and Barbuda has been like during the pandemic and whether they expect the island’s business to grow significantly after the recent change in US protocols.
This is what they had to say.
“Thanks to the lifting of restrictions, we have seen an increase in orders to Antigua,” which, throughout the pandemic, has had some of the toughest hoops to enter, said Stephen Scott, a consultant at Protravel International in Chicago. ”
Besides certifying hotels and other accommodations, health and tourism authorities also certify a number of recreational activities.
Each accredited organization or individual providing accommodations, services and/or activities must possess a valid certificate indicating COVID-19 protocol training.
Air travelers will not need to be tested and show a negative COVID-19 test result, nor COVID-19 recovery documents, before boarding a flight to the United States, regardless of vaccination status or citizenship.
“I hope everyone is so excited about the recent news that we don’t have to test anymore to get back to the USA,” said Amanda Pesack, founder of Travelista Travels in New York. “I know this has changed the rules of the game for me and my clients.”
But even before the test mandate was lifted, Pisac and its clients were traveling to Antigua and had few complaints.
She said: “I actually went to Antigua in June of 2021, and other than the island with a curfew, which is kind of annoying, but understandable, I didn’t really see a big change from the last time I was there.
“Antigua is a much quieter, cooler, and laid-back island, so visiting during COVID doesn’t look much different to me,” Pisac continued. “They stopped their concert in Shirley Heights, which was hard to miss, but I’m happy to say the party is back and better than ever.”
Terrah Van Meter, a consultant at Legacy Travel in Dallas, was also sending clients to Antigua long before this year.
She said, “I was sending a lot of couples to Antigua during COVID because they were so happy to welcome Americans, and it was easy for Americans to travel there unlike most countries in the world at the time.”
So, what kind of accommodations are clients now looking for in Antigua at a time when privacy and social distancing are more important than ever?
“The last client we sent to Antigua stayed in a villa, and that appears to be the best way to go for luxury clients because of the level of privacy, control, and beach access as needed,” Scott said. “It wasn’t hard to book the destination, and I expect that to be the case for most other luxury travel advisors.”
However, agents should note that the CDC’s order requiring proof of vaccination for non-immigrant noncitizens to travel to the United States remains in effect.
Passengers arriving in Antigua are not required to have a full vaccination to enter Antigua and Barbuda, but will have to show evidence of a negative COVID test if they are not vaccinated.
Fully vaccinated incoming passengers are not required to submit a negative PCR/rapid antigen test result to be admitted into the state.
For flights, proof of vaccination may be required depending on the flight. Consultants should check with the trip operator prior to a client’s trip.
Unvaccinated minors between 5 and 18 years of age must present an approved negative RT-PCR result that took no more than three days or a rapid antigen test performed 24 hours prior to arrival in Antigua and Barbuda.
Unvaccinated minors who are not staying in an approved resort/accommodation may be required to self-quarantine for 10 to 14 days. Children under the age of five entering Antigua and Barbuda do not need a COVID-19 RT-PCR test.
Customers traveling from Antigua and Barbuda to countries that require a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test result or show an antigen test on arrival can arrange for an RT-PCR or antigen test at the Mount St. ).
Hotels also offer RT-PCR and rapid antigen testing. Agents should note that this varies by hotel.
Hotels offering testing on property include Carlisle Bay Resort, Cocobay Resort, Curtin Bluff Resort, Galle Bay Resort & Spa, Hammock Cove, Gombe Bay Island, Hermitage Bay and more.
Although the price and time before results are ready varies between hotels, the Hermitage Bay express test costs $124 per person, and response time is about 45 minutes, Van Mitter said.
“The main insights from the clients were that the beauty and safety of the island was of paramount importance to why they wanted to travel there,” Scott said. “It’s seen as a safe destination to travel to, and it’s not a standard option that everyone has gone to.”
New boutique opening in December
Moongate Antigua’s new 49-suite boutique hotel, described as an “elegant barefoot resort,” is set to open in December.
The all-inclusive hotel includes a spa, 28 standard suites, 14 superior suites with plunge pool, and seven one-bedroom penthouse suites with a plunge pool.
All hotel suites offer freehold and inclusion of an optional rental pool for all property owners. Property owners have access to the same broad range of amenities as hotel guests.