THE VALLEY, ANGUILLA — After taking over the reins of the Anguilla Tourist Board as its new Director of Tourism last month, Stacey Liburd is sharing insight into what life is like on the island in a new Q&A.
Thanks to a comprehensive approach to health and safety protocols that includes testing upon arrival and 10 days after, Anguilla, which is considered COVID-19-free, has been able to safely reopen to tourists last fall, essentially serving as a tourism ‘bubble’ for vacationers. As such, Liburd says visitor arrivals have remained steady since then, with life on the island returning to normal – albeit with added safety measures in place – for both locals and tourists.
Q: How has life in Anguilla been impacted by the pandemic?
A: In March of last year we responded like many countries did with the implementation of a lockdown to ensure there was no community spread of the Covid-19 virus. We were indeed fortunate to date to have had only 3 cases at the very beginning of the pandemic and all fully recovered. Our borders remained closed right through to Fall – so in fact, we all went about our regular lives – except that we had no visitors on the island. We didn’t have to wear a mask, we enjoyed our restaurants and our annual carnival – as normal. During this time, we evaluated and considered the best way to reopen Anguilla to tourists – and how to keep both locals and our visitors safe. And we took the opportunity to train hospitality staff at resorts throughout the island on becoming “Safe Environment Certified”, which means following protocols for cleaning, etc.
Q: How did Anguilla re-open safely? How has Anguilla kept the Covid-19 numbers so low?
A: Working with our health department, we determined that in order to ensure safety for everyone, visitors would be required to be tested before arrival, tested upon arrival, and then again at the 10/14-day mark. This would prove to be the most secure solutions for both visitors and residents. We went further and implemented an application process for all visitors. It may sound like layers of bureaucracy – but in reality, it’s a very quick process and allows us to assist visitors with submitting their negative PCR tests, and generally just helping them make arrangements to visit Anguilla.
- Have you been getting many visitors? What can they expect when they arrive?
A: Yes, we were initially flooded with requests from visitors wanting to come to Anguilla – and it’s been steady ever since. Particularly, we have had many visitors who have taken advantage of our Digital Nomad program and decided to stay here with us longer than just a week or two. On arrival, visitors are given a RT-PCR test. Then they are quickly whisked away to their “Safe Environment Certified” accommodation.
In effect, visitors go into a bubble – but our bubble is different from your bubble! Our bubble includes restaurants and activities – and only those visitors within your bubble are able to go to those restaurants and participate in “your” activities. For example, if you want to stay at Meads Bay Villas, you are transported to your villa – and your bubble becomes the Meads Bay ‘bubble’.
There are approved restaurants that you can visit (reservations and transportation must be arranged through your concierge). Want to do some excursions? Your concierge will help you with the arrangements. All taxis, restaurants, tour companies are required to go through Safe Environment training to become certified for operation. These precautions mean that guests can enjoy the beach, the activities, the restaurants within their bubble. After 10 days, visitors will have another RT-PCR test, and once the results are negative, they are then free to fully explore the island outside of their bubble.
Q: What activities are visitors able to participate in?
A: Visitors can still visit our offshore cays, do a variety of water sports and other activities, enjoy the beach. The only stipulation is that they are required to use a tour company that has been Safe Environment Certified, which must be arranged through your concierge.
Q: What about dining options? Can visitors go to any restaurants? What about live music?
A: Reservations are required to any restaurant, but until the second test on island at the 10-day mark is returned negative, only the restaurants in your bubble can be enjoyed. However, there will be a number of choices of restaurants in your bubble – rest assured, you won’t be bored with the choices! Anguilla’s amazing food scene is fully represented in the restaurants within your bubble. Many restaurants also provide live entertainment – yes, we do have live music.
Q: What about grocery shopping? If I’m staying at a villa, where can I go to get groceries?
A: Groceries can be arranged through your concierge and delivered to your room, until you receive the results of the second test on island (after the 10/14 day mark). After that, you can rent a car if you like, and visit any of our grocery stores.
Q: Do I have to wear a mask on island?
A: Masks are required on arrival to Anguilla, while travelling through the airport or seaport and on the way to your accommodation. Masks are not required after arrival at your accommodation.
Q: What happens if a guest tests positive at any point? What are the medical facilities like?
A: We have 1st class medical facilities on the island should the need arise. For mild cases our medical team will ask that visitor to stay in their accommodation under the supervision of doctors and nurses until they recover.