It’s one thing to require unvaccinated travelers to quarantine or undergo extra Covid tests.
It’s another to bar them altogether.
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 over open-door policies for all.
Unvaccinated people no longer welcome
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, the British overseas territory is switching tactics. Starting July 1, 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.
Vaccinated travelers will no longer need to quarantine, take a Covid test upon arrival or pay entrance fees. Earlier this year, vaccinated travelers were charged $300 to enter, while unvaccinated visitors were charged $600.
Cases rise, tolerance falls
Anguilla isn’t the only Caribbean island closing the doors to unvaccinated travelers. The dual island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis instituted a similar policy last month.
As of May 29, St. Kitts accepts only travelers who have been vaccinated with U.S. or European vaccines. The new rule was part of several initiatives announced by Prime Minister Timothy Harris in response to a cluster of 16 Covid cases detected on the islands last month, according to St. Kitts Tourism Authority.
“The previously announced travel requirements for non-vaccinated travelers are null and void,” according to a statement announcing the policy change.
The islands are under a 6 p.m. daily curfew, and tourist sites are closed until June 26. A timeframe for reopening to unvaccinated tourists has not yet been indicated.
Unvaccinated children traveling with vaccinated parents can also enter, though they must “vacation in place” for 14 days, rather than the nine days required for vaccinated tourists.
Anguilla and St. Kitts and Nevis are deemed Level 1 low Covid destinations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both were highlighted by CNBC in March as being among only a handful of tourist destinations that opened while maintaining low Covid infection rates.
A ‘compelling reason’ to travel
Other locations require unvaccinated visitors to show they are traveling for reasons beyond simply needing a vacation.
When French Polynesia, which includes the islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora, reopened on May 1, 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.
That has since changed. From June 16, vaccinated tourists can enter if they spent the preceding 15 days in the United Kingdom, most French territories or France’s “green zone” countries, according to French Polynesia’s destination marketing organization. “Green zone” countries currently include most of Europe, plus countries such as Australia, Canada and the United States.
Most of Europe, plus Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States
Source: French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, updated June 17
Everyone else — including all unvaccinated travelers — must demonstrate a “compelling reason” related to health, family or work to travel to French Polynesia.
“Tourism is not a compelling reason for travel,” according to Tahiti’s tourism website.
France’s policy is slightly more relaxed. It allows unvaccinated travelers from “green” countries to enter via a negative Covid test. Yet travelers from “orange” countries — which is every country not on the green or red list, i.e. the majority of the world — must be vaccinated to enter or show “pressing grounds” for travel, according to the website for the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
The French collectivities of St. Barts and St. Martin in the Caribbean reopened this month with a similar policy. Nils DuFau, president of St. Barts’ tourism board, separately issued an announcement that St. Barts was open to vaccinated Americans starting June 9.
Spain went a step further. From June 7, Spain is welcoming travelers from Europe and those from a list of 10 countries with low Covid rates; all other tourists must show vaccination certificates to enter.
Note: The country lists from France and Spain are similar. However, the U.K. is currently on Spain’s list, while the U.S. and Canada are not.
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.
“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 July 1, 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 U.S., the billions in cross-border shipping and commerce conducted daily and their reliance on U.S. tourism dollars.”
Editor’s note: U.S. land borders with Mexico were closed to non-essential travel in March 2020 and will remain restricted until at least July 21. However, air travel between the two countries has been opened throughout the pandemic.