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Where Can I Travel to in Caribbean? Covid Reopening Plans by Island

Sunset over English Harbour, Antigua.

Photographer: Roberto Moiola / Sysaworld/Moment RF

Allen Chastanet, St. Lucia’s prime minister, thought he was lucky—his island was deemed a “non-outbreak” zone when the Zika virus swept through the Caribbean in 2016, and it was similarly spared from the hurricanes that pummeled its neighbors in 2017. But then came Covid-19.

“It’s had a devastating effect on our economy and the livelihood of our citizens,” Chastanet says. Indeed, 65% of the island’s gross domestic product is garnered through tourism, and the island saw a dramatic 89% drop in arrivals from March to July. That has reduced the government’s total revenue by almost 60% so far this year, and attempts to curb the island’s already high 25% unemployment rate have spiraled in the opposite direction.

In other parts of the Caribbean, tourism officials started 2020 optimistic that this would be the year to rebound from billions of dollars in hurricane-related losses. But no matter where you look, that’s not the way the story went.

St. Lucia lifted its ban on visitors on June 4, after 20 long weeks of prioritizing health concerns; it was the first Caribbean nation, along with Antigua and Barbuda, to reopen. By the beginning of July, that list had expanded to include only a handful of other islands, such as Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, plus a couple of start-and-stop efforts that fizzled when new coronavirus cases flooded in.

Now, the waiting game is reaching its apex.  

Scenic View Of Mountains And Sea Against Sky

The iconic Pitons of St. Lucia

Photographer: Didier Masson / EyeEm/EyeEm

Roughly half of the Caribbean’s 28 island nations have moved to reopen borders. “Festive” season—the peak holiday period at the end of the year, when warm-weather destinations make an outsize proportion of their tourism profits—is on the horizon, and Caribbean islands are making plans to recapture some of the $44 billion of estimated losses that will be sustained regionwide as a result of Covid-19.

With St. Lucia and its Caribbean neighbors ranking among the most tourism-reliant nations in the world, Chastenet is feeling the pressure. “Our tourism industry must coexist with Covid in order to recover,” he says.

The playbook shifts, depending on the destination.