Over the past several months, countries throughout the Caribbean have largely eliminated Covid-era travel protocols requiring proof of vaccination, testing and quarantines. As of early December, there appears to be only one destination still requiring travelers to show proof of vaccination: Turks and Caicos.
We explain the entry requirements in place for U.S. visitors in each Caribbean country.
The destination has continued to prohibit unvaccinated visitors 18 and older from entry -- it doesn't make exceptions for people with negative Covid tests.
But the adherence to this pandemic protocol hasn't appeared to put much of a damper on the destination's comeback.
According to the Turks and Caicos Tourist Board, visitor arrival data indicates that stayovers/land-based arrivals for the first three quarters of 2022 surpassed 2019 levels by 15%, making 2022 one of the strongest years ever for the destination.
In fact, the Turks and Caicos Tourist Board credits the strict travel protocols, as well as an exceptionally high vaccination rate among the local population, with helping to boost Turks and Caicos' swift tourism rebound.
"Because of this, visitors have felt comfortable traveling to the Turks and Caicos Islands, and our arrival numbers have made a full recovery," said Mary Lightbourne, acting director of tourism at the Turks and Caicos Tourist Board.
Several travel advisors echoed this sentiment. Susan Peavey, owner of Massachusetts-based Susan Peavey Travel, said that demand for the islands hasn't slowed among her clientele.
"Turks and Caicos is probably one of our biggest destinations," said Peavey. "And the clients who are going there understand that the destination has had some strict policies with vaccination. They don't have a problem with it, and often, I think they're happy to know that nearly everybody on the islands is vaccinated."
Travelers to the Caribbean at this time last year will remember the layered entry practices that destinations had in place: Most required negative Covid tests; many needed pre-entry application forms and vaccination proof; and some had insurance requirements. Plus there was the testing requirement to return to the U.S.
Turks and Caicos added its vaccination rule in September 2021, but at the time it also required testing and medical insurance.
Peavey said that despite the vaccination prerequisite for travelers over the age of 18, entry into Turks and Caicos today remains fairly straightforward. She cited the fact that it has already done away with more complex Covid requirements around testing, purchasing mandatory insurance and receiving travel authorization through an online portal.
"All you have to do is be able to show your proof of vaccination," said Peavey.
Likewise, Turks and Caicos hotels and resorts have similarly reported a lack of pushback when it comes to the market's vaccination rules.
"The guest response has been overwhelmingly positive," said Nikheel Advani, COO and co-founder of Grace Bay Resorts, which has a luxury Turks and Caicos portfolio comprising the Grace Bay Club, West Bay Club, Point Grace and Rock House Resort.
According to Advani, 2022 occupancy levels at Grace Bay Resorts are on par with 2019's threshold, while rates have shot up even higher than the prepandemic watermark.
"We expected the demand to taper off in 2022 and into 2023 as Europe opened up, but it hasn't, and pace in 2023 is just as strong or stronger," said Advani, adding that the continuation of Turks and Caicos' vaccination mandate "has buoyed ongoing confidence in the islands as a safe destination to travel to."
Beach Enclave Turks & Caicos, which has a portfolio of luxury "villa-resort" properties spread across Long Bay, North Shore and Grace Bay, has similarly seen demand continue to surge, bolstered by heightened interest in everything from multigenerational travel to weddings and honeymoons to small corporate meetings.
"Thus far, our forward sales are exceeding our expectations for 2023, and the outlook looks very promising," said Grant Noble, COO for Beach Enclave Turks and Caicos.