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Residents from Florida, New York, Texas and Arizona planning visits to Jamaica must now provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 10 days before their expected arrival date, according to a July 2 tourism bulletin released by the Caribbean nation’s tourism officials.
Jamaica health officials have deemed those states high-risk locations following virus case spikes across the U.S. in recent weeks. And travelers from these designated high-risk locations, which are subject to change according the tourism bulletin, must upload their COVID‐19 PCR test certificate information at www.visitjamaica.com as part of the nation’s visit application process.
Jamaica is no longer requiring mandatory COVID-19 PCR tests for all international arrivals at its airports, but travelers should expect extensive screenings, including temperature checks, observation for symptoms and a short interview with a Health Officer, according to the tourism bulletin.
“Based on health screening and risk assessment on arrival, persons may still be required to be tested at the airport or designated facility, if, for example, they are exhibiting symptoms or belong to a high risk group despite presenting a negative COVID‐19 PCR test certificate,” Jamaica tourism officials said.
Travelers who are tested at the airport “would await their test result in their hotel room,” according to the bulletin.
“If the test is positive, they would be isolated either at the hotel/resort or in a government facility as determined by the health authorities,” Jamaica tourism officials said.
On June 15, Jamaica became one of the Caribbean’s first destinations set to welcome back international travelers. However, specific details about the COVID-19 safety protocols that visitors should expect in Jamaica have undergone changes in recent weeks, including a new policy requiring mandatory virus testing for all arrivals.
Earlier this month, Jamaica officials indicated travelers arriving on international flights would be subject to temperature and symptom screenings conducted at the destination’s airports before moving on to the “Resilient Corridor,” a stretch of open properties and attractions along the coast between Negril and Port Antonio.
Three days before the first international travelers arrived on June 15, however, the Jamaica Tourist Board announced that “all travelers to Jamaica will need to undergo a COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostic test/swab test on entry to the island.”
My upscale luxury travelers may have a difficult time going from a five-star club and butler service to a public health facility for any length of time — let alone two full weeks.
News of that change in requirements did not reach Janet Mosley, owner of Leisure Lady Travel in Westland, Mich., who has sold Jamaica for 20 years, until late last week. Mosley says she’s had a longtime partnership with the Jamaica Tourist Board and has been working closely with its officials since the pandemic began, staying up to date on any changes as soon as specifics were provided. But details about the mandatory testing surprised her.
“When I last read the policy, Jamaica was doing a fever test — not a full-fledged COVID-19 test,” she said. “That’s a game changer.”
Donovan White, Jamaica’s director of tourism, said on June 25 that after being tested for COVID-19 at the airport, “travelers must stay at their accommodation until they receive their swab test results, typically within 24 to 48 hours.”
“During this phase, visitors are required to stay in properties,” he said. “If a traveler tests positive for COVID-19 on arrival, the person will be isolated in a public health facility for a minimum period of 14 days, or until they are able to produce two consecutive negative tests in a 48-hour period.”
Mosely, who recently booked several new Jamaica vacations for clients around Christmastime this year, says the current policy of quarantining travelers in a public health facility was particularly troubling.
“The quality of a private hospital is questionable in Jamaica,” she said. “And when we’re talking about a public health facility that people will be housed in for 14 days, that’s a risk I’m not willing to take with clients.”
Jamaica’s decision to test all arriving travelers for COVID-19 was also a new development late last week for Paulette Darensburg, a Protravel International-affiliated advisor in Beverly Hills, Calif., who has sold the destination for 30 years.
Darensburg says Jamaica’s mandatory testing might provide some travelers peace of mind. But she also questions the practicality of a temperature screening, noting that “asymptomatic people don’t have temperatures, and they’re spreading the virus.”
She still feels that most of her clients, who often visit Jamaica for five to 10 days, would be uncomfortable traveling there until the current testing and quarantine protocols are lifted.
“If you are only spending five nights on island, and the test results take 48 hours, that leaves only two and a half days to explore outside the resort,” she said.
Anne Smith, owner of Travel & Events Extraordinaire in Columbia, Maryland, who has sold Jamaica for more than 15 years, says all of her clients have already rebooked their trips to the destination to 2021, and details of the island nation’s current testing and quarantine requirements would definitely be a turnoff.
“Once this policy is fully explained to travelers, they will reconsider traveling to Jamaica,” she said. “My upscale luxury travelers may have a difficult time going from a five-star club and butler service to a public health facility for any length of time — let alone two full weeks.”
However, the advisors all expect Jamaica to interest clients once its testing and quarantine protocols are relaxed, attributing the destination’s low COVID-19 figures and extensive collection of private villa products as selling points. Through June 28, 696 confirmed COVID-19 cases and a total of 10 related deaths have been reported across the island, according to Jamaica’s Ministry of Health.
“Villas are going to be the hottest sell and most attractive vacation option because they allow people to vacation but be isolated somewhat from the large sprawling resorts,” Smith said, adding that Negril is home to villa options with a great deal of appeal for her clients.
During the reopening period of June 15 to 21 this year, 5,706 international visitors arrived in Jamaica, according to director of tourism White. In 2019, more than 53,000 travelers visited the island during the same week.
“Most of the major airlines serving the destination, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue, have begun operating with limited service,” White said. “United Airlines and Southwest Airlines will be coming on stream in July. We are very optimistic that more service will be scheduled as demand has been increasing for Jamaica.”
Mosely, who remains optimistic about a rebound for Jamaica’s tourism industry in 2021, says the rapidly changing landscape of the destination’s COVID-19 visitor protocols are just another reminder of how challenging, yet crucial, it is for advisors to stay informed.
“It’s a very fluid situation on everybody’s part right now in tourism,” she said. “What was true yesterday is not today and probably won’t be an hour from now.”
The DetailsJamaica Tourist Board www.visitjamaica.com