Outrigger Hotels and Resorts

Published on Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The destinations shutting out unvaccinated travelers

(CNBC) A small but growing list of travel destinations is either closing its doors to unvaccinated travelers or reopening only to vaccinated ones.

Either way, the unvaccinated are seeing their travel options start to dwindle as tourism-dependent nations prioritize safety and simplified entrance requirements.  

When Anguilla reopened last November, travelers to the small Caribbean island needed to test negative for Covid-19 before and after arriving. A rash of new cases then occurred in April, and Anguilla reclosed its borders to tourists for a month.

Now, stating 1 July, visitors must be vaccinated at least three weeks before arriving. This applies to 'all visitors … who are eligible to be vaccinated,' according to the Anguilla Tourist Board's website, which says children are exempt from the requirement. .

Tourist-dependent countries, like those in the Caribbean, must balance the economic impact of welcoming tourists with the safety of its citizens, said Tim Hentschel, co-founder and CEO of hotel reservations company HotelPlanner.

"I can only imagine how challenging those conversations must be between a country's infectious disease expert advising a more stringent policy versus a head of tourism arguing to let everyone in immediately so the economy doesn't tank," he said.

Hentschel said that while 13 Caribbean nations are sovereign, French territories such as Martinique and Guadeloupe and Dutch territories such as Curacao, Aruba and Sint Maarten, may end up following state policies.

Hentschel called Asia 'a very different story,' mainly due to lower vaccination rates.

A largely-deserted Phuket is scheduled to waive quarantine requirements for vaccinated travelers starting  1 July.

"As soon as there appears to be progress, a new outbreak and lockdown occur, like in Singapore," he said.

"Asia's journey back to a semblance of pre-pandemic normal travel will be much longer — perhaps another year or more, unfortunately."

Asian destinations have stopped short of requiring vaccinations to travel, but the continent is still largely closed to leisure visitors. The much-discussed "Phuket Sandbox" model — whereby the popular island of Phuket is scheduled to reopen on 1 July, before the rest of Thailand — waives quarantine requirements for vaccinated travelers from low-to-medium-risk countries.

Unvaccinated travelers can still enter, though they are subject to 14-day isolation periods, the Tourism Authority of Thailand confirmed to CNBC.

While requiring tourists to be vaccinated makes 'perfect sense' in some places, it won't work everywhere, said Hentschel. 

"Interestingly, Mexico never closed its border to American tourists throughout the entire pandemic," he said.

"So, that's one example where a more open policy made sense for Mexico given its proximity to the US, the billions in cross-border shipping and commerce conducted daily and their reliance on US tourism dollars."

US  land borders with Mexico will remain restricted until at least 21 July , however, air travel between the two countries has been open throughout the pandemic.

When French Polynesia, which includes the islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora, reopened on 1 May, it singled out Americans as the only nationality that could enter for the purpose of tourism. The policy applied to unvaccinated Americans, too, though the unimmunized were subject to quarantines. 

Now, vaccinated tourists can enter if they spent the preceding 15 days in the UK, most French territories or France's 'green zone' countries.

Everyone else — including all unvaccinated travelers — must demonstrate a 'compelling reason'related to health, family or work to travel to French Polynesia.


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