Antigua distances itself from Barbados: 'We won't be shutting our doors to UK visitors any time soon'

Lizzie Frainier
·4-min read
Antigua - JONATHAN COLE
Antigua - JONATHAN COLE

Last week, Barbados added the UK to its list of “high-risk” nations, causing doubts over the prospects of future Caribbean holidays. Since then, representatives from Antigua have been eager to reassure travellers that they will not be categorising countries in a similar way.

The changes in Barbados mean that tourists arriving on a flight from a British airport from October 1 onwards will not only have to present a negative Covid-19 test result, but will also have to check into approved facilities until they receive the results of a further test, four to five days after taking the first test (two to three days after arrival). Only then, and only if both tests are negative, can the holidaymaker travel freely around the country. That said, the clinical sounding “approved facilities” include the likes of Sandals Royal Barbados and Cobblers Cove, so for those looking for a fly and flop holiday this is hardly a deterrent to booking.

Nevertheless, this has caused confusion and anxiety for holidaymakers hoping to head to the Caribbean, unsure if neighbouring islands would follow suit.

Colin James, the CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority, said in a statement: “Antigua has no plans to categorise countries in a bid to stop them from visiting its shores, including those travelling from the UK. We were one of the first islands in the Caribbean to open, and the regime we have in place is working well for us. The government has recently introduced trained monitors to spot check all properties and tourism facilities to ensure the protocols are being adhered to which is paramount to rebuilding safe tourism. We look forward to welcoming more UK visitors who meet the existing protocol guidelines to our 365 beaches soon.”

The existing protocols in Antigua and Barbuda include the fact that all passengers above the age of 12 visiting the island by air must provide evidence of a negative PCR test from the previous seven days, and may be subject to further tests on arrival. Masks are required in public spaces and all visitors must require a Health Declaration Form, but from day one you are allowed to explore all the islands have to offer. Both are also currently on the UK’s ‘green list’ for air bridges, and are likely to stay there for some time with a seven-day case rate on October 2 of just over five.

Antigua beach - JONATHAN COLE
Antigua beach - JONATHAN COLE

One holidaymaker, Celia Jones, visited with her fiance for two weeks in September. She told The Telegraph: “Covid delayed our wedding plans but we still had the time off work. We booked very last minute – we wanted to feel comfortable that there was a secure air bridge and it was safe. The island has had fewer than 100 cases and requires PCR tests for all visitors.

"The island was paradisiacal. I've never been in such warm, calm seas. Although we went in peak tropical storm season, the closest we came to a hurricane was the cocktail we enjoyed while bobbing around in the ocean.” 

Another British holidaymaker Richard Hall shared on Twitter: “Here at Sandals Antigua you can holiday safe in the knowledge that the resort has achieved platinum Covid safety compliance. Entry requirements to the island paradise give you further added confidence that all here have tested negative in the last seven days.”

Camilla Sukumaran, a former general manager of Carlisle Bay, added that with the low numbers of tourists they are currently experiencing, guests can expect empty beaches.

British Airways offers direct flights from London Gatwick, and Virgin Atlantic are set to resume flights to Antigua from October 26. There are currently 13 hotels open in Antigua, with a further 23 set to open during October and November.

Curtain Bluff is one such hotel, due to open on October 24. Rob Sherman, managing director, shared with Telegraph Travel: “Our resort is naturally designed to provide both a spatially distant and open-air experience for guests, an example being that every room is beachfront and open to warm Caribbean trade winds, making the use of air conditioning unnecessary.”

The hotel has a number of discount offers available to encourage holidaymakers to choose Antigua as their preferred winter sun destination, including 25 per cent off for guests that visit October 24 to December 16.