On January 12, the CDC announced it would be requiring all international travelers, including U.S. citizens, to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test from within 72 hours of departure in order to board a flight to the States. Many Caribbean and Central American hotels and resorts—two of the few areas accepting American travelers amid the ongoing pandemic—were surprisingly well-prepared.
“We’ve been offering testing since before Christmas,” says Wendy Eardley, resident manager at Curtain Bluff in Antigua. “We have many guests from the Northeast who were asking for tests before they headed back so they could test out of quarantine or guests who were going to another island that required them.”
Before the COVID testing order, which goes into effect on January 26, was announced, Curtain Bluff’s on-call resort doctor was swabbing guests who asked for rapid antigen or PCR tests in their rooms. Now, to keep up with the heightened demand, the doctor will begin holding office hours three days a week in a hotel room set aside specifically for testing. The tests, whether PCR or rapid, cost $250 ($200 is the government-set price, with $50 added for the doctor’s fee) and the resort’s concierge helps set up the appropriate appointment time based on your destination’s timing requirements.
Like Curtain Bluff, Nayara Resort, Spa & Gardens in the lush Arenal region of Costa Rica repurposed its on-site doctor and nurse for testing guests, with one difference. “All of our rooms have oversized decks or balconies so our doctor and nurse will come and actually do the test outdoors on the balcony,” says owner Leo Ghitis. The $275 tests are then taken by courier to the main hospital in San José, Costa Rica’s capital. Results are emailed back within 48 hours.
“We’re lucky that we have this technology and that it’s so easy,” Ghitis says. “When [the requirement] was first announced, people got a little concerned and we had some cancellations. Everybody that has called to make a reservation since wants to know about [our testing options], without exception. But once we explain how easy it is, I think people feel reassured.”
Some hotels, like Sonesta Ocean Point Resort on Sint Maarten, are offering credits to help counter the costs that guests can incur with testing requirements for both arrival to the island and departure to the U.S. The all-inclusive resort is currently offering a $120 credit to offset testing costs and the insurance required to enter the island. “It allows guests to do room upgrades, buy some wine that’s outside of our all-inclusive program, or enjoy a spa treatment,” says Sonesta’s vice president of resort operations, Jamie Lee. Now that the resort is offering on-site rapid tests for $50 (with results picked up after 6 p.m. each day at the concierge), guests can also use the credit toward the COVID-19 test.
Many more hotels have publicized their COVID testing offerings since the requirement was first announced earlier this month. For example, Eden Roc Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic is now offering free PCR and rapid antigen testing in guests’ rooms. Morocco’s Royal Mansour resort has been offering on-site PCR tests for $78 since it reopened in October. And domestic hotels like the W South Beach Hotel and the Chateau Marmont are offering on-site testing to comply with certain state arrival guidelines.
According to the CDC, “postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19” and non-essential travel is not encouraged. For those who do continue to travel, testing plays a major role. Aside from being required to test before returning to the U.S., the CDC recommends getting tested three to five days after your return and reducing all non-essential activities for seven days, even if your test results are negative. International travelers will also have to quarantine under an executive order, introduced on January 21 by President Biden. The specifics of the restrictions are being worked out by a number of federal agencies, so for now, the order requires international air travel passengers to follow CDC recommendations and quarantine for 10 days on arrival, in addition to providing negative COVID-19 test results.
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