We all want to get back to this. To be on that boat, wearing a big hat out in the sun. To bask among all that intoxicating blue! The question, though, is when. Not when, as in when “can” we resume adventuring around the Caribbean. Flights have resumed and borders reopened in many parts of the region. The bigger question is when “should” we return to the islands? Coronavirus Caribbean travel presents more than a few challenges and moral dilemmas to consider before booking your next flight south to the sun…
Coronavirus Caribbean Travel Risks
Personally, I’m in no rush to return. More than 1,000 people are succumbing to the virus each day in the United States right now. Rates of infection, death-toll projections, and COVID-19 spread are all on the rise across many U.S. states. If you, like me, live in the U.S., and have any empathy, all of this should give you more than a modicum of pause before traveling anywhere.
(I live in Florida, the current COVID-19 global hot spot, so this goes double for me.)
Yes, the Caribbean needs tourism. Desperately, in fact. It is by far the largest industry in our home region.
Caribbean communities, though, are also very small. When it comes to medical care, these small communities rarely measure up to the services we enjoy in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and elsewhere. What might be a small outbreak where we live could amount to a catastrophe for most any Caribbean community.
Imagine your trip causing an entire island population to be left with little or no medical services.
No amount of uncommon adventuring is worth that. At least not to me.
Still Wanna’ Get Away?
Many of you won’t share my opinion. You’re healthy and COVID-free. You’ve carefully kept your social distance and adhered to all of the CDC guidelines. Hand sanitizer is your cologne; a face mask, your top fashion accessory.
You’re going to travel to the Caribbean no matter what.
No one can stop you.
If you do go, though, please, please, please consider these tips to keep your coronavirus Caribbean travel safe… both for you and our Caribbean communities…
1. Get Tested Before You Travel
This one may seem obvious since most “open” destinations are requiring travelers to present proof of a negative COVID test prior to, or upon arrival. I keep hearing from Caribbean tourist board officials, though, that more than a few Americans are not complying with this most basic of safety protocols. This has to stop.
2. Pack Your Own PPE
Remember back in March when we were all waking up to the reality of lockdown life? Store shelves were laid bare of such essentials as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and Lysol. In the islands, where most everything is shipped in from somewhere else, people are used to shortages. As a kid growing up in St. Croix we’d often have to find creative ways to make-do without “essential” items. Don’t assume you’ll be able to be as industrious. Pack your own PPE and be better safe than sorry.
3. Stay Safe and Secluded
Another BIG reason why I’m not ready to revisit the Caribbean is that it’s not really a good idea to mix with the locals right now. Maintaining social distance means missing out on the type of person-to-person interactions that really define our uncommon style of travel. Secluded beaches. Private islands. Self-sustaining charter yacht or villa accommodations where you can cook for yourself and steer clear of other people. These should be tops on your coronavirus Caribbean travel wish list.
4. Buy Emergency Medical Travel Insurance
This is simply (and sadly) a must during these challenging times. As noted above, medical services are limited throughout much of the Caribbean. Avoid the potential for overwhelming them and not getting the care you need by purchasing emergency medical travel insurance prior to your trip. That way, if you do end up getting sick on your travels, you’ll be able to safely make it back to receive care closer to your home.
Bottom line: Travel Responsibly
We all need to realize and be sensitive to the fact that real people live and work in the Caribbean. What many of us consider to be our playground in the sun is, more importantly, their home.
Pandemic or no pandemic, we all need to respect this dynamic each and every time we visit the Caribbean.
This, of course, could not be more important to remember right now.