Be Cautious of “Opening Day” Specials at Caribbean Resorts

Though vacation resorts throughout the Caribbean and Mexico are promoting re-opening dates throughout July and August. Canadians need to be careful about committing to firm reservations and deposits. You may be in for a culture shock.

Let’s take Jamaica as an example because its tourism ministry has provided a detailed protocol (in 120 pages) that all hotels and resorts must follow in protecting their international visitors and their own citizens from the effects of COVID-19. It is expected to guide other Caribbean nations as they open up, which many have already done or will do in the next few weeks.

Before you even board your flight to Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston or Sangster International in Montego Bay, you’ll need to have some form of certification that you have tested negative for COVID. If not, expect be swab-tested on arrival, and to undergo a temperature check.

Then when you arrive at your resort of choice, expect a whole new experience if you have travelled to Jamaica before. Let’s call it “somewhat austere.” And you will not have escaped mandatory face masks and physical distancing—everywhere: on the pool deck, in the restaurants and bars, on the beach, even in the surf. Lifeguards and beach attendants will be there to make sure you keep your distances.  The index listed in the protocol is 113 square feet allotment person (that’s about six feet around). One good thing—you won’t have to wear masks when swimming as it’s considered a drowning hazard.

You can also remove your mask while eating, and you can forget the fancy tableware while dining. If you need the salt shaker, it will be brought to you and taken away when you’re through with it. And get used to those paper napkins.

But let’s not single out Jamaica. Virtually all Caribbean islands are imposing similar rules. How long they will stay in place depends on the persistence of the COVID virus and how quickly it can be eliminated as a threat.

Cuba has gone a step further by limiting tourism to its outlying keys (Cruz, Coco, Guillermo, Largo, and Santa Maria). Havana and the mainland resorts will remain closed until later in the summer or fall.

The Dominican Republic is expected to open up 40 to 50 percent of its hotels to international tourism on July 1, but you can still expect face mask and physical distancing restrictions and other restrains on dining and some beach services.

And Mexico is opening up carefully—first on the Caribbean coast (Cancun and Playa del Carmen area) and Cabo San Lucas on the Pacific.  Hopefully, the rest of the country will be open for the high-traffic winter season but monitor your plans carefully as Mexico was hard hit by COVID 19 and there may be significant restraints for some time.

Despite these openings, you need to be cautious about making reservations and putting down non-refundable deposits for any trips far in the future. Though hotels may open, airlines are under tight restraints and you can’t expect the easy air access you have had in the past.

Government warnings may invalidate travel insurance. Do you want to risk it?

Most important, if the Canadian government maintains its “Avoid non-essential Travel” warnings on out-of-country trips, travel insurance will very likely not be able to cover any of your expenses due to travel delays, cancellations, medical emergencies, or repatriations related to pandemic restrictions.

Travel insurance helps people who have to cancel trips, or receive medical care outside Canada, due to unforeseen events. But as the coronavirus pandemic continues, insurance companies have deemed the virus a “known event” that customers are aware of before leaving the country: thus travel to any country on the “Avoid non-essential Travel” list is virtually non-insurable. At present, all foreign countries are on that list.

No doubt Canadians are fed up with stay-at-home orders and the potential loss of summer. But you won’t make up for it by spending big dollars (even at discounted price) to be disappointed with a “holiday that wasn’t.”

Do your homework and don’t let your frustration deep-six your good judgement.

© Copyright 2020. Milan Korcok. All rights reserved.

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