COVID-free since June 2020, the eastern Caribbean island of Anguilla has implemented a measured approach to reopening its borders to visitors in order to keep the island safe from the pandemic. In a recent virtual press conference hosted by CEO & Director General of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, Frank Comito, Anguilla’s tourism officials outlined the strategies that have been working for the island.
Phase 2 opening to short-term guests, which began in early November, includes a visitor-friendly initiative within the confines of COVID protocols. This allows certified hotels, resorts, and villas to operate in a bubble allowing travellers to experience the properties and amenities in that safety sphere. The earlier Phase 1 reopening welcomed returning residents and long-term visitors. Although Anguilla is opening to visitors from countries that may be dealing with high rates of COVID infection, the island’s Parliamentary Secretary Economic Development, Natural Resources, Tourism and IT, Quincia Gumbs-Marie, noted that specific health and infection training has been comprehensive.
Gumbs-Marie explained that with guidance from the Pan American Health Organization, as well as the island’s local health authority, and the addition of psycho-social training, employees and staff have gained the confidence necessary to deal with visitors who may have COVID-19.
To enter Anguilla, visitors must get pre-approved by going on the island’s Tourist Board websiteivisitanguilla.com. In fact, all travellers, including returning residents are required to complete a questionnaire requesting information on length of stay and health-related questions. In addition, each visitor must upload a negative PCR test that must be taken 3-5 days prior to arrival. Masks are mandatory throughout the ports of Anguilla. Temperature checks as well as a Polymerase Chain Reaction(PCR) test, that will detect small amounts of genetic material from COVID-19, will be given upon arrival.
Once visitors get to Anguilla they will have limited access to ground transportation such as car rentals until the traveller has cleared the stay-in-place order. From the port they are taken by certified ground transportation to their certified property. They will be given a PCR test and will not be allowed to leave the hotel until a negative PCR test is received. However, they can experience the restaurants and beaches at the property. Results are usually available the day after the test is given.
At this point, they will be able to move from property to property and partake in excursions via approved transportation. Thus, while visitors’ movements are somewhat limited, they are still able to enjoy some amenities Anguilla has to offer while they await full clearance after a second PCR test 10-14 days later.
“It’s definitely a bubble experience, or a guided movement experience. So, you are allowed a plethora of activities, however, with certain limitations. And, it’s primarily important for in the event that we have guests with COVID we would be able to do contact tracing, but we still want guests to have the same experience once they get here.”
To defray the costs of the multiple COVID tests as well the island’s health surveillance programme including track and trace, travellers will incur some of the cost. For visits of 5 days or less a solo traveller will pay US$300, couples US$500, family or group US$300 for the primary family member and US$250 for each additional family or group member. Longer stays of 6-90 days will cost the single visitor US$400, couples US$600, family or group US$400 for primary member with an additional US$250 for the remaining members of the group. The Long Stay Digital Nomad Work from Anguilla programme allows travellers to stay up one year and would cost the individual US$2000 and US$3000 for a group or family primary member plus US$250 for each additional person. These long stay costs include extended stay and digital work permit.
Chairman of the Anguilla Tourist Board, Kenroy Herbert, noted that these strategies are in place to protect guests and locals, and has been effective. He observed that the island is known for its repeat visitors and tourism officials are determined to keep it that way.
“For staff in the accommodation sector, we have seen kids grow up over the years. Clients become family and most of the staff are looking forward to welcoming their family and friends back home. So when they return, it is now one big virtual hug,” Herbert beamed.
In fact, Kevin Carty, President of the Anguilla Hotel and Tourism Association (AHTA) is encouraged by the numbers of enquiries for the upcoming winter season.
“Coming up to the holiday season, bookings are healthy based on the circumstances”, Carty remarked, adding, “properties do not want to be totally full as part of the COVID protocol, but, it is going probably even better than we expected”.
It all comes down to patience, retooling, and training noted Janine Edwards, past President of the AHTA.
“We were put on pause for a few months, but we were very active in that time. We were upgrading ourselves, we were digesting the information, we were retraining, retooling, and we really took the time to look at every element within our visitor experience. And it is working”, Edwards said.