"After the last 18 months, there's finally light at the end of the tunnel," said Racquel Brown, CEO of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority.
Brown echoed what other tourism officials are saying these days, as on-island vaccinations increase, visitors numbers creep up and hotel occupancy begins to build to 2019 levels.
Seventy-two percent of eligible adult locals on St. Kitts had received their second vaccine dose as of last week.
The country is open to fully vaccinated travelers, much like Anguilla, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Montserrat, St. Barts, Turks and Caicos, Trinidad and Tobago and -- starting Nov. 20 -- the Cayman Islands.
Arrivals and what to expect on-island
Visitors to the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis must fill out a travel authorization form, show results of a negative PCR test done 72 hours before arrival and quarantine for 24 hours after arrival at their hotel while awaiting the result of a PCR test.
The quarantine time was recently reduced from four days to 24 hours, "and this is proving very popular with our visitors," Brown said. "We want to enhance the guest experience at the airport upon arrival so we're whisking our guests straight to one of the seven travel-approved resorts on St. Kitts and Nevis, and we do the test there."
Masks are required indoors and on public transport. All
restaurants are open and there is a curfew from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., "which
really only impacts the real night owls," she said.
An antigen test is required for visitors reentering the U.S. and is administered by a Ministry of Health approved medical profession 48 to 72 hours prior to departure at the respective travel-approved hotel, with cost ranging between $50 and $55.
Kids under 18 must be vaccinated to enter St. Kitts. Otherwise, they must quarantine for 14 days, along with family members traveling with them.
"We know this is a barrier now for family travel to our destination, but St. Kitts and Nevis are small islands, and we have to manage our destination as safely as we can," Brown said. "With vaccinations now approved in the U.S. for the 5-to-11-year- old group, we hope this will incentivize families to vacation in St. Kitts."
She described the upcoming winter season as "much better than last. It's slowed down a bit now but is looking good for the holidays and on into February. We actually felt we had December in September because we had a slew of arrivals that month."
Flights and cruises to St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Kitts is kicking off the season with strong airlift and cruise ships calling at Port Zante, according to Brown.
American has daily service from Miami through until April 2, with twice-daily service starting Dec. 18. American will offer a weekly Saturday flight from Charlotte, N.C., beginning Dec. 18, and it will offer weekly service from New York JFK from Nov 20 through Dec. 18.
The current cruise schedule calls for 29 calls in November, including four inaugural calls from the Celebrity Apex on Nov. 10, Aida Perla on Nov. 16, Enchanted Princess on Nov. 23 and Seabourn Ovation on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25 with an estimated total of 72,163 passengers.
The first week of November was Brown's "happy week," as she described it. St. Kitts had four cruise ship arrivals from Nov 2 to 9, the island's first four-ship week since before the pandemic.
"Our craft vendors at the pier, all of whom are vaccinated, are so grateful to be back at work and to interact with cruise passengers once again," she said.
When the vaccinated passengers disembark, there are three travel-approved tours they can select, or they can wander independently on their own to travel-approved sites, which have been approved by the Ministry of Health and the Covid Task Force. More sites will be added by the end of the month.
How St. Kitts is attracting travelers
St. Kitts launched a brand campaign entitled Awake Your Sense of Wander on Aug. 20 and has incorporated its current Winter Escape promotion through April 30 into the campaign.
The promotion ranges from percentage discounts to free nights on multi-night bookings as well as complimentary breakfast and specific offerings at each of the seven travel-approved hotels and resorts on St. Kitts and Nevis.
"We're inviting our visitors to see our destination and, depending upon their lifestyle and sense of adventure, we offer spas, beaches, water sports, the Scenic Railway tour, hiking in the rainforest, a catamaran sail to Nevis and a Nevis island tour," Brown said.
The time has come "to reconnect," she added. "We've done well on our health and safety protocols. This is a safe destination, and our welcome mat is out."