It's festive season in the Caribbean, usually a joyful time of celebrations, parties and family gatherings.
However, a Scrooge named omicron has appeared this season, threatening to disrupt travel plans. Caribbean tourism's recent rebound could be facing now faces a hurdle.
"Has omicron affected holiday and winter season bookings?" I asked travel advisors on the Travel Advisors Selling the Caribbean Facebook group.
Their responses were mixed, but many were frustrated after 22 months of dealing with Covid-19, its variants and its surges and of having to explain the confusing and ever-changing entry regulations to their clients.
Several advisors said that questions on insurance and quarantines were among the most frequently asked: what kind of insurance, how much to buy, the cancellation policy specifics.
"So far, so good, but I'm not resting easy at all," said Adrienne Sasson, director of Rubinsohn Travel in Jenkintown, Pa. "During conversations, it's the 'what if' questions that are on clients' minds: What if I test positive and have to quarantine during my vacation?
"I don't counsel clients to travel or cancel. The decision has to made on their own comfort level," she said.
Denele Kramer, an independent travel consultant at Maven Travel in Hamburg, Pa., reported several cancellations since omicron's numbers began climbing in mid-December.
"I'm vaxxed and boosted, and I am canceling my personal travel on Dec. 31 and Jan. 9 trips," she said. "I can't risk getting sick. So if clients want to cancel, I completely understand. This is no joke."
What to do about unvaccinated clients who want to go somewhere where vaccinations are not required for entry?
This question came up for Tina Dillingham Messamore, owner of Latitudes Travel in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
"They are still planning on going at the end of January, and I'm working with them to narrow it down," she said. "But I'm struggling with whether to take this one. They are current clients, but they are not grasping this."
Molly Burkouricz at Chambers Travel in Green Bay, Wis., said that she lives "in an area where it seems to be a black or white issue. Covid is a thing or it isn't. If they don't believe it, vaccinations be damned, they just go where they can get in and carry on as if nothing's ever happened."
She noted that her business usually slows down after Thanksgiving, "but we're busy and booking and nobody is canceling."
Lisa Ann McLaren at Lisafit Travel is "so over it."
"It's going to be like the flu every year," she added. "People either deal with it or stay home."
The Christmas group that had booked with Shevon Welch, owner of VonVoyage Travel Consultants in Atlanta, decided "at the last minute to get insurance because of omicron," according to Welch.
Two advisors admitted they are exhausted by the pendulum swings of Covid. Becah Fiehs of Love to Travel in Overland Park, Kan., reported "lots of questions from clients on what their options are."
Hillary Rose Ogle, wedding specialist at Paradise Weddings and Travel in Tomball, Texas, agreed. "I hear you. Back in the cancellation ring, too. "
"Aren't we all?" asked Jennifer Pickering, owner of Seahorse Travel in Bedford, N.H.
"I lost an entire destination wedding for March," said Kristi Zalesky, owner of Explore Your World Vacations in Denver.
"I lost three bookings in the last two weeks," said Traci Sigafoos, Indulge Yourself Travel-Dream Vacations in Hilton, N.Y.
"The fact that omicron is leading the headlines is downright deflating. We had hoped all this was in the rearview mirror," said Susan Collins-Peavey of Susan Peavey Travel in Marshfield, Mass.
"We have clients on the fence about traveling. Fingers crossed that this doesn't last long," she said.