Good Morning Everyone! A few weeks ago, I updated you on the “re-opening” of the British Virgin Islands to tourism. As promised, I’ll continue on with those updates as we see them. Here’s the latest…
The BVI announced their #BVILove Campaign on September 22 along with the promise of re-opening to outside visitors on December 1. A lot of us have been anxiously following along with announcements following that proclamation in hopes of one day soon zipping across the channel for a day filled with fun, and Painkillers, in the sun. It’s an unfortunate realization for visitors and for USVI based charter companies that these days might be a bit farther away than our initial hopes.
The process for visiting the BVI will be a long, and expensive, one to start.
On October 26, Premier and Minister of Finance, Honourable Andrew Fahie, officially shared that the BVI hopes to open its seaports on December 8. But the protocol for vessels entering the territory’s waters with charter guests remains undefined. Based on the official airport requirements, and the following statement from Fahie, it seems that these protocols will be aimed to allow term charters in first and with a similar testing process:
“As we look forward to the further expansion of our tourism industry’s controlled, balanced and managed reopening, such as the authorisation of entry and overnight stays in the maritime industry, prospectively as of 8th December, 2020, this system will also be assisting us with the monitoring and tracing of visitors, and helping us to build our Virgin Islands Visitor Entry Database.”
Now, what are these official entry requirements for arriving by air? Well, the updated announcement doesn’t stray far from what we covered last month when the Premier outlined them briefly in a radio interview. But, it does offer a bit more about how they are managing the process and how much it will cost.
First, all guests will need to have prior approval to enter the territory. The online portal through which to gain this permission was scheduled to go live on November 2. But, as of this morning, it was still under construction.
Visitors will be required to download this app, register in the portal, agree to the terms of testing and quarantine and upload all required travel documents. The travel documents cited are customs and immigration forms and identification. Everything must be submitted and approved at least 48 hours prior to arrival.
The approval through the portal, as well as a negative COVID-19 PCR test administered within five days of arrival in the territory must be presented upon entry to the BVI Airport (PLEASE NOTE: None of these measures have been confirmed for seaport entry on the 8th as of yet. The above and the following are all in regards to entry via the Beef Island Airport in Tortola).
Ok, now you’re in, what’s next? Once arriving in the terminal, all guests will be required to take another PCR test. The airport houses a new and comfortable “screening area” where up to 90 passengers can relax and wait for their test results. In this area, the BVI officials will also ensure that everyone has downloaded the contact tracing software. You might be thinking it’s not a great idea to gather people from multiple flights in an enclosed area, but BVI officials say that the incoming flights will be staggered by 90 minutes to ensure a smooth process and entry into the territory.
After you have left the screening area, you will be required to head straight to your accommodation and quarantine for four days. On the fourth day, a third PCR test will be required and once that result is negative, visitors will be allowed “restricted movement to designated places.” These places are being coordinated by the Environmental Health Department and other Government agencies.
You’re not done with the process yet, but let me break this up for a moment to talk about what this looks like for businesses in the BVI. The H. Lavity Stoutt Community, Culinary and Hospitality Studies Department designed a program to allow employees in these industries to return safely to serving the islands’ tourism. Anyone wishing to re-open, must attend the online sessions of this course and receive the internationally recognized “Gold Star Certification.”
Every tourism related business in the territory will also be required to obtain permission from the Environmental Health Department. Last month, in an effort to communicate these initial protocols to the businesses, Premier Fahie and other government officials held a series of virtual meetings with business owners from different divisions of the tourism industry in the BVI. You can read more about those meetings here.
Now, back to the entry protocol for visitors. You’re almost done, I promise!
On the eighth day of your stay, after your four days of limited movement to designated areas, a fourth (including the one you took before arrival) and final COVID-19 PCR test will be administered. Once a negative result is obtained for that last test, you would be able to move about the territory without restriction.
Well, almost…You DO have to have your mobile device with you AT ALL TIMES. This will help the government with contact tracing in the event of a spike in positive cases.
You may be wondering what this is going to cost. Well, it’s not cheap. The testing protocol and tracing device could cost each visitor up to $450. The testing devices are not required in all cases and I haven’t seen anything eluding to where they are applicable. But, if they deem it necessary, it would cost $150. Each of the three PCR tests on island is estimated to cost $100.
These are some of my own conclusions drawn from reading extensively about what’s going on in the BVI…
These protocols are obviously not ideal for someone who is wanting a week away in the BVI. This process, in my mind, is designed to allow people into the territory who want to spend two weeks or longer. It is also geared towards guests who are able to pay the extra cash for the tests and potentially the tracking device. These guests would likely be in the territory safely for a longer period of time with money to spend to stimulate the economy.
Day charters will likely not be a thing for a number of months, if not longer. The December 8 seaport re-opening will likely follow a similar protocol but that has not been addressed at this date. It is of my opinion that term charter guests spending longer than a week in the BVI could have a lovely time quarantining on their vessel for the first eight days and then be free to explore the islands afterwards. It still beats winter up north…By kind of a lot!
Again, these last two entries are my summation of the strategy behind these stringent protocols and my opinion of what’s yet to come. But, I’ll be following along to keep you updated on the facts as we have access to them as things are constantly changing. In the words of Premier Fahie, “As we identify areas for improvement, we will make the necessary adjustments, because bear in mind that COVID-19 is fluid.”
In the meantime, if you are visiting St. John or St. Thomas this season, don’t miss a day or more on the water simply because we don’t have access to the BVI. Stunning snorkeling, secluded coves and bar and restaurant options are all available to you with a day trip or term charter. We have deals for you on some boats and details on others. Explore the USVI!