Days after Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes had said it wasn’t yet 100 per cent sure Aruba would allow US travellers back per July 10 as intended, the country’s Civil Aviation Department informed relevant airlines that will indeed be the case (see Monday paper), with added COVID-19 precautions. However, the basic rules have not changed that much and resemble those of St. Maarten when it planned to reopen the border for Americans on July 1.
The latter was postponed by two weeks due to the coronavirus situation in the US, but the hospitality industry is hurting badly and wants to avoid any more costly delay, as does the airport especially after having to use its reserves to pay employees what they were due. Aruba will give passengers from certain less-affected states the option to skip the negative PCR test result within 72 to 12 hours prior to boarding requirement and take the test on arrival instead, at their own expense.
These are things St. Maarten can consider, or perhaps even only accommodating flights from gateways judged to be relatively safer like New York, New Jersey and North Carolina, all of which are not on Aruba’s high-risk list. What happens there after Friday may serve as a useful example also regarding connections with the rest of the Dutch Caribbean.
Curaçao and Bonaire threaten to shut their airspace to any island that permits US tourists. St. Eustatius and Saba remain closed to St. Maarten guests from now, forcing Winair to cancel already-scheduled flights.
It is important for all kingdom partners and everyone else involved to understand that St. Maarten and Aruba have little choice because their tourism economies paralysed for the last four months greatly depend on the North American market.
Solidarity is needed too on the French side, which had warned of possible border closures. They should keep in mind that no such action was contemplated by Dutch-side authorities when visitors from St. Barths, Martinique and Guadeloupe were first admitted at Grand Case airport without quarantining.
For the moment Aruba appears to be taking the lead within the Dutch Caribbean on the resumption of incoming US-based travel, as it did in meeting conditions for liquidity support from the Netherlands. One thing is for sure, St. Maarten will be watching with great interest.