As two-week quarantine requirements around the world become de rigueur amid loosened travel restrictions, would-be summer vacationers now face a new conundrum:
Is travel with such strings attached worth it?
For many travelers, the answer will likely be a hard no. After weeks or months of being asked to stay home, boarding an aircraft for a far-flung destination only to be instructed to self-isolate once you arrive at your accommodation has questionable appeal.
For Chicago-based travel photographer and writer, Joshua Mellin, venturing to a place with a quarantine restriction “goes against the tenets of being a responsible traveler,” and he’s not interested. Even if Mellin were to eventually come around to the two-weeks of quarantine before being able to travel freely, he says the challenge would be finding affordable lodging he’d be willing to stay cooped up in for the two-week period — the length of which is equal to the average American’s summer vacation.
With travel to a destination that’s applying stringent rules around foreign (and, in many cases, domestic) arrivals, it might be prudent to avoid areas with such restrictive measures.
Alison Hickey, president of Kensington Tours, says “we would not recommend traveling to a destination that has implemented a 14-day self-quarantine requirement.”
Hickey advises “collaborating closely with your agent or travel company so that you’re perfectly clear about what the details of self-isolation mean in your particular destination” if you can’t or won’t avoid a destination with a 14-day self-quarantine rule.
Anyone with limited vacation time considering summer travel abroad should of course also read up on the official government’s rulings — or risk spending an entire vacation quarantined within the four walls of a standard hotel room, or worse, winding up in jail for violating rules.
Proof of self-isolation
As restrictions around the world begin to ease and as economies slowly reopen, hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions prepare once again to welcome international travelers. However, it’s definitely not business as usual.
Australia and New Zealand were among the first nations to introduce self-isolation measures for people (both nationals and foreign visitors) entering their countries.
As of March 15, anyone entering Australia is subject to a 14-day quarantine.
The rules are clear: If you’ve been out of the country or are from another country, you’re not to leave your home or hotel except in the case of an emergency. Going to public places is prohibited, and people can’t visit you while you’re in quarantine.
In New Zealand, measures are even tighter. High-risk arrivals in New Zealand will be placed in quarantine facilities and nearly no international travelers are allowed in at this time, whether by air or sea.
In Hawaii, a popular travel destination that has strongly discouraged visitors since the pandemic’s outbreak, imprisonment is a possibility for people found breaking the self-quarantine rules.
In the UK, government officials recently announced a two-week quarantine for most arriving airline passengers.
Beginning in June, people arriving in the UK by air will not only be required to self-quarantine for two weeks, but they will also be asked to provide an address with the location of their self-isolation to allow for random spot checks.
Requested, not required
In the United States, some of the language surrounding the practice of self-quarantine offers room for interpretation.
Crossing state lines is not prohibited, but rules vary by state — with some requesting or instructing and others advising or requiring — out-of-state visitors to self-quarantine.
So far, it appears Hawaii may be an outlier in its implementation of strict follow-up measures or ways to track those who don’t abide by the rules.
In late March, as he tried to parse through White House guidelines, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said he didn’t see the self-quarantine instructions having an “enforcement mechanism.”
As of May 4, highway billboards along the turnpike in the Northeast, including in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut, advise travelers to self-isolate, but that’s about the extent of it — signage from the side of the road.
Out in the Hamptons, a popular spot among well-heeled New Yorkers, self-quarantining is also not mandated, and hotels, like the new boutique property on Amagansett, The Roundtree, is planning to open on June 1. (In late March, it was recommended that New Yorkers leaving the metropolitan area self-isolate for 14 days.)
But Big Sky, Montana, which is beginning a phased opening of its summer operations starting May 22, says this: “Per the Governor’s directive, a 14-day quarantine is in effect for travelers arriving in Montana from another state or country.”
Selecting a destination with no quarantine rules in place may be a significant factor in choosing where to vacation this summer.
“I would advise looking at destinations that are local and that don’t involve quarantine,” says Hickey.
Puerto Rico is also preparing to welcome visitors in the coming weeks, but travelers to the US territory will be “requested to self-quarantine” for 14 days upon arrival through the end of May. (The CDC continues to recommend against all nonessential travel to the region.)
Brad Dean, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico, says that as the island “begins its gradual reopening, and containment and management of the virus remain consistent, we can expect to see less strict measures.”
Self-quarantine = just stay home?
As more regions around the world prepare to restart dormant tourism economies, those requiring visitors to abide by two weeks of strict self-quarantining may have a challenging time luring visitors.
Then again, it’s possible the promise of hefty fines and/or jail time is a rather indirect way of telling people to steer clear.
Canada, rather than implement any kind of two-week quarantine “request” or “restriction,” isn’t letting any nonessential visitors in, period.
Do some states and countries even want leisure travelers this summer?
In a news conference, Gov. David Ige of Hawaii asked visitors to postpone their trips to the state.
“We know that our economy will suffer from this action, but we truly appreciate the cooperation we’ve received from our hospitality industry to understand that these actions are necessary,” he said.
The hotels are indeed cooperating, says Marisa Yamane, director of communications and public relations with Hawaii Tourism Authority. They’ve “been excellent in notifying us when they suspect someone is breaking the quarantine order. They either notify us or call 911 so that police will respond.”
Open and social distancing
Greece, on the other hand, is growing eager to welcome travelers and says it hopes to do so by July 1.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tells CNN they’re banking on “more high-end tourists” owing to a reduction in low cost airlines transporting international travelers to Greece’s prime vacation spots.
Mitsotakis says “agrotourism, tourism in smaller hotels seems to me to be better suited for this new sort of post-pandemic world.”
Indeed, in regions and in resorts where social distancing is easy to come by, albeit at a high cost typically, self-isolating may not be so much a requirement as a spatial inevitability.
Francis Ford Coppola’s Hideaways in Belize and Guatemala hope to reopen by July 1, but the countries are waiting for their governments to provide more information.
Asked whether self-quarantining will be required of visitors to the regions, a public relations spokesperson for the Hideaways properties says only that they “are the perfect secluded getaway.”
“We like to say the properties are SPF 100 – safety, protection and familiarity.”
At around $500 a night for the Turtle Inn in Belize with an option to charter a private flight for maximum seclusion, that SPF 100 doesn’t come cheap.
CNN’s Mick Krever and Elinda Labropoulou contributed to this story.