Posted on February 05, 2021
Changes in international COVID testing rules have thrown a heightened sense of uncertainty into timeshare owner’s ability to travel outside the continental 48. With the U.S. government’s new mandate that all inbound travelers provide a negative COVID test prior to returning to the States, this added layer of testing is adding confusion for some destinations.
Case in point – the U.S. Virgin Islands. USVI officials have repeatedly stated that, since they are a part of the United States, travelers returning to the mainland from islands such as St. Thomas and St. Croix do not need to be tested. Officials correctly insist that they are not to be treated as an international destination and, therefore, do not come under the new mandate. Meanwhile, the CDC is recommending that travelers be tested in the USVI prior to returning to the U.S.
Vacationers still need to be tested before they head to the islands, but reading between the lines, it looks like the CDC is leaving it up to the individual as to whether they should be tested when returning to the States. The good news for timeshare owners with timeshare in St. Thomas, St. John or St. Croix is that they can still head down to the islands and escape the cold without the need for a passport.
The French government announced last week that it was closing its borders to non-EU citizens due to COVID, which also includes the Caribbean islands under French jurisdiction. This appears to impact the islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Barts and, more importantly to timeshare owners, French St. Martin.
Anyone who has traveled to St. Martin knows that international travelers arrive on the Dutch side of the island at Princess Juliana International Airport, then would travel to the French side if that is where they have accommodation booked. There is no controlled border between the two sides, just a sign marking the spot, so enforcement seems curious, if not impractical.
The Dutch St. Maarten side is still open and the airport is still welcoming international visitors. If anyone has timeshare accommodation booked on the French side of St. Martin, you may want to check with your resort to make sure they will still accommodate you.
The islands of Barbados and St. Lucia are the latest of the islands changing up their testing requirements. COVID tests need to be taken no more than five days before arriving on St. Lucia and three days before landing on Barbados. Quarantine is awaiting travelers upon arrival until a COVID test on arrival produces a negative result, usually within 48 hours. Sounds like fun?
Other islands already have pre-arrival testing requirements in place and are working to have testing facilities established in hotels for vacationers needing a test before returning to the U.S. Travelers need to check with their specific destination for the latest requirements, as they seem to be changing quickly.
The Asian timeshare mecca of Phuket, Thailand, is planning to step up efforts to vaccinate its residents in order to restore stability to its tourism industry. So what makes this unique? Tourism officials are planning a private sector vaccination effort prior to the Thai government’s anticipated vaccine rollout in June.
Tourism leaders are concerned that the economy is so battered that they need to act quickly. Industry associations are working to raise funds to vaccinate about 250,000 residents on the island, about 70 percent of the local population. Talks are underway with hospital networks to obtain AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines in order to begin the process.
Local officials would like to offer a quarantine-free stay for visitors who have been vaccinated, but a decision is expected to be made on a national level.
Vacationers and timeshare owners visiting Hawaii over the holiday period were overwhelmingly pleased with their experience. Of the travelers surveyed during this period by the Hawaii Tourism Authority, 90 percent said they had an excellent trip, even with the need to undergo a COVID testing process.
The primary drawbacks centered on reduced activities, with about one-third of visitors citing a lack of activities as a problem due to COVID limitations. Less than a third of visitors said they could do everything they wanted during their trip.
An impressive 99 percent said they were aware of the testing requirements and about 20 percent had problems ranging from delayed test results prior to leaving home to trouble finding testing facilities.
Hawaii tourism officials maintain that the testing requirements are holding them back from larger visitor numbers, but considering that the state basically locked out visitors for eight months last year this is definitely a step in the right direction.