It’s one thing to require unvaccinated travelers to quarantine or undergo extra Covid tests.
It’s another to bar them altogether.
A small but growing list of travel destinations is either closing its doors to unvaccinated travelers or reopening only to vaccinated ones. Either way, the unvaccinated are seeing their travel options start to dwindle as tourism-dependent nations prioritize safety and simplified entrance requirements over open-door policies for all.
When Anguilla reopened last November, travelers to the small Caribbean island needed to test negative for Covid-19 before and after arriving. A rash of new cases then occurred in April, and Anguilla reclosed its borders to tourists for a month.
Starting next week, unvaccinated travelers will not be allowed to enter Anguilla.
Michael Runkel | Collection Mix: Subjects | Getty Images
Now, the British overseas territory is switching tactics. Starting July 1, visitors must be vaccinated at least three weeks before arriving. This applies to “all visitors … who are eligible to be vaccinated,” according to the Anguilla Tourist Board’s website, which says children are exempt from the requirement.
Vaccinated travelers will no longer need to quarantine, take a Covid test upon arrival or pay entrance fees. Earlier this year, vaccinated travelers were charged $300 to enter, while unvaccinated visitors were charged $600.
Anguilla isn’t the only Caribbean island closing the doors to unvaccinated travelers. The dual island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis instituted a similar policy last month.
As of May 29, St. Kitts accepts only travelers who have been vaccinated with U.S. or European vaccines. The new rule was part of several initiatives announced by Prime Minister Timothy Harris in response to a cluster of 16 Covid cases detected on the islands last month, according to St. Kitts Tourism Authority.
A cluster of 16 new Covid cases in May resulted in St. Kitts and Nevis closing its borders to unvaccinated travelers.
Walter Bibikow | DigitalVision | Getty Images
“The previously announced travel requirements for non-vaccinated travelers are null and void,” according to a statement announcing the policy change.
The islands are under a 6 p.m. daily curfew, and tourist sites are closed until June 26. A timeframe for reopening to unvaccinated tourists has not yet been indicated.
Unvaccinated children traveling with vaccinated parents can also enter, though they must “vacation in place” for 14 days, rather than the nine days required for vaccinated tourists.
Anguilla and St. Kitts and Nevis are deemed Level 1 low Covid destinations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both were highlighted by CNBC in March as being among only a handful of tourist destinations that opened while maintaining low Covid infection rates.
Other locations require unvaccinated visitors to show they are traveling for reasons beyond simply needing a vacation.
When French Polynesia, which includes the islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora, reopened on May 1, it singled out Americans as the only nationality that could enter for the purpose of tourism. The policy applied to unvaccinated Americans, too, though the unimmunized were subject to quarantines.
That has since changed. From June 16, vaccinated tourists can enter if they spent the preceding 15 days in the United Kingdom, most French territories or France’s “green zone” countries, according to French Polynesia’s destination marketing organization. “Green zone” countries currently include most of Europe, plus countries such as Australia, Canada and the United States.
France’s “green” list of countries
Most of Europe, plus Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States
Source: French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, updated June 17
Everyone else — including all unvaccinated travelers — must demonstrate a “compelling reason” related to health, family or work to travel to French Polynesia.
“Tourism is not a compelling reason for travel,” according to Tahiti’s tourism website.
France’s policy is slightly more relaxed. It allows unvaccinated travelers from “green” countries to enter via a negative Covid test. Yet travelers from “orange” countries — which is every country not on the green or red list, i.e. the majority of the world — must be vaccinated to enter or show “pressing grounds” for travel, according to the website for the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
The French collectivities of St. Barts and St. Martin in the Caribbean reopened this month with a similar policy. Nils DuFau, president of St. Barts’ tourism board, separately issued an announcement that St. Barts was open to vaccinated Americans starting June 9.
St. Barts reopened its borders to vaccinated American travelers on June 9.
Walter Bibikow | DigitalVision | Getty Images
Spain went a step further. From June 7, Spain is welcoming travelers from Europe and those from a list of 10 countries with low Covid rates; all other tourists must show vaccination certificates to enter.
Note: The country lists from France and Spain are similar. However, the U.K. is currently on Spain’s list, while the U.S. and Canada are not.
Tourist-dependent countries, like those in the Caribbean, must balance the economic impact of welcoming tourists with the safety of its citizens, said Tim Hentschel, co-founder and CEO of hotel reservations company HotelPlanner.
“I can only imagine how challenging those conversations must be between a country’s infectious disease expert advising a more stringent policy versus a head of tourism arguing to let everyone in immediately so the economy doesn’t tank,” he said.
Hentschel said that while 13 Caribbean nations are sovereign, French territories such as Martinique and Guadeloupe and Dutch territories such as Curacao, Aruba and Sint Maarten, may end up following state policies.
Hentschel called Asia “a very different story,” mainly due to lower vaccination rates.
Vaccinated travelers from some countries will not be required to quarantine in Phuket, Thailand starting July 1.
Jordan Siemens | Stone | Getty Images
“As soon as there appears to be progress, a new outbreak and lockdown occur, like in Singapore,” he said. “Asia’s journey back to a semblance of pre-pandemic normal travel will be much longer — perhaps another year or more, unfortunately.”
Asian destinations have stopped short of requiring vaccinations to travel, but the continent is still largely closed to leisure visitors. The much-discussed “Phuket Sandbox” model — whereby the popular island of Phuket is scheduled to reopen on July 1, before the rest of Thailand — waives quarantine requirements for vaccinated travelers from low-to-medium-risk countries.
Unvaccinated travelers can still enter, though they are subject to 14-day isolation periods, the Tourism Authority of Thailand confirmed to CNBC.
While requiring tourists to be vaccinated makes “perfect sense” in some places, it won’t work everywhere, said Hentschel.
“Interestingly, Mexico never closed its border to American tourists throughout the entire pandemic,” he said. “So, that’s one example where a more open policy made sense for Mexico given its proximity to the U.S., the billions in cross-border shipping and commerce conducted daily and their reliance on U.S. tourism dollars.”
Editor’s note: U.S. land borders with Mexico were closed to non-essential travel in March 2020 and will remain restricted until at least July 21. However, air travel between the two countries has been opened throughout the pandemic.
U.S. expands refugee program for Afghans as Taliban escalates violence
People stand in a queue to submit their passport applications at an office in Kabul on July 25, 2021.
Sajjad Hussain | AFP | Getty Images
The Biden administration announced Monday that it will expand refugee eligibility for Afghans as the United States withdraws troops and the Taliban escalates violence in the war-torn country.
Afghans who do not qualify for the existing special immigrant visa program but are at risk due to their U.S. affiliation will be able to apply to the U.S. refugee program to under a new “Priority 2” designation, the State Department said in a statement Monday.
The designation will allow thousands of other Afghans to permanently resettle in the U.S.
This includes Afghans who are current or former employees of U.S. government-funded programs, U.S.-based media organizations and U.S.-based NGOs in Afghanistan. Their spouses and children will also be eligible for the refugee program, the statement said.
Afghans who worked for U.S. and NATO military operations but do not meet the minimum time-in-service requirement for a special immigrant visa, or SIV, will also be able to apply.
“The U.S. objective remains a peaceful, secure Afghanistan,” the State Department said in the statement. “However, in light of increased levels of Taliban violence, the U.S. government is working to provide certain Afghans, including those who worked with the United States, the opportunity for refugee resettlement to the United States.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to deliver remarks on the new designation Monday afternoon.
The announcement comes as U.S. and coalition forces approach the end of their withdrawal from Afghanistan, and as Taliban fighters continue to seize more territory in the country at the risk of Afghan civilians. Thousands of Afghans and their families who aided the U.S. fear for their lives as they may face retribution from the Taliban.
The Priority 2 designation allows “groups of special concern” designated by the State Department to have access to the U.S. refugee program, according to the statement. To qualify for the designation, Afghans must be nominated by a U.S. government agency.
Afghans who are not eligible for the Priority 2 designation can be nominated for a “Priority 1” designation that deals with individual cases for resettlement under the refugee program, the statement said. They must be nominated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a U.S. Embassy or a designated NGO.
A limited group of Afghans have been eligible for resettlement under the existing SIV program first established in 2009, which only considers Afghans who worked directly for the U.S. government and NATO coalition forces.
Lilium electric jet start-up signs $1 billion deal with Azul
Lilium says its five-seater jets can travel up to 186 in one hour.
Lilium, a German start-up making electric jets that can take off and land vertically, has announced plans to sell 220 of its vehicles for up to $1 billion to Brazilian airliner Azul.
The two firms said on Monday that they plan to build an eVTOL (electric vehicle takeoff and landing) aircraft network across Brazil between now and 2025.
“The aircraft we’re planning to launch will do 175 miles an hour,” Alex Asseily, Lilium’s chief strategy officer, told CNBC on Monday. “The range will be 155 miles.”
The aviation industry is under intensifying pressure to look at new ways of powering their carriers as policymakers publicly acknowledge the necessity of transitioning to a low-carbon society.
Lilium’s latest aircraft is a five-seater model but the one that goes into serial production and gets sold to Azul will be a seven-seater model, Asseily said, adding that the production line is 50% complete.
Each Lilium jet will cost Azul roughly $4.5 million.
Azul is the largest domestic airline in Brazil in terms of cities served and daily departures.
John Rodgerson, CEO of Azul, said in a statement that Azul’s brand, route network and loyalty program will help to “create the markets and demand for the Lilium jet network in Brazil.”
Investors have backed Lilium, which competes with the likes of Airbus and BlackFly, with $300 million so far.
However, the company is planning to raise an additional $830 million that will give it a post-money valuation of around $3.3 billion. The money is being raised through a SPAC with QellSPAC, and will be chaired by former Airbus CEO Thomas Enders.
Tesla veteran Gabrielle Toledano and aviation executive Henri Courpron will join Lilium’s board of directors upon completion of Lilium’s business combination with QellSPAC.
The Saudi Arabia-UAE rift that froze OPEC is a sign of things to come
RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA – JULY 19: (—-EDITORIAL USE ONLY â MANDATORY CREDIT – ” ROYAL COURT OF SAUDI ARABIA / HANDOUT” – NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS – DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS—-) Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (L) meets with Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman (2nd L) within his visit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on July 19, 2021. (Photo by Royal Court of Saudi Arabia/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The unexpected rift between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates within OPEC in early July came as a shock to many in the Gulf region and those watching from abroad.
The dispute over oil production levels temporarily froze the group’s ability to lay out their plans for the markets, sending crude prices upward. But it wasn’t the first appearance of tension between the Arab neighbors and longtime close allies, and likely will not be the last, experts who’ve long been watching the region say.
“What is happening here is these are the two biggest economies in the region, in the Arab world,” Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a political science professor in the UAE, told CNBC. “And as Saudi Arabia wants to reform its economy, privatize, etc, there is bound to be competition between them.”
“Competition between the two biggest Arab economies is, I think, just starting,” Abdulla said. “And it is bound to intensify in the days to come.”
The strategic alignment between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, both of which have become increasingly active on the world stage, is evident in many areas. And it’s often associated with what is said to be a close relationship — some have even called it a “bromance” — between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his Emirati counterpart Mohammed bin Zayed.
But conflicting interests have cropped up in recent months that preceded the OPEC rift. In February, Saudi Arabia announced that its government would cease doing business with any international companies whose regional headquarters were not based within the kingdom by 2024. The move was widely seen as targeting Dubai, the Middle East’s current headquarters hub.
Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Donald Trump and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (L to R) attend a signing ceremony for the agreements on “normalization of relations” reached between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain at the White House in Washington.
The White House | Shealah Craighead | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The UAE last year announced a normalization deal with Israel, becoming the first Gulf country to do so, while Saudi Arabia has so far publicly refused to do the same. Saudi Arabia meanwhile has been working on a tentative rapprochement with rival Sunni power Turkey, with which the UAE has significant tensions as Ankara supports an Islamist ideology that Emirati leaders see as a threat.
And the two Gulf powers had some diverging interests in the war in Yemen, despite being on the same side, with the Saudis supporting an Islamist party distrusted by the UAE and Abu Dhabi supporting separatist tribes that did not align with Riyadh’s goals. The UAE drew down its military activity in Yemen in 2019, while Riyadh remains embroiled in the conflict.
“It has been a common assumption that the UAE and Saudi Arabia have effectively indistinguishable worldviews and interests — that the UAE is sort of an appendage or dependency of Saudi Arabia,” Hussein Ibish, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, wrote in a blog post in July. “That has never been the case.”
In early July, Saudi Arabia upped the ante by ending preferential tariffs for goods made in free zones or affiliated with Israeli manufacturers, also seen as a direct shot at the UAE, which is the free zone hub of the region. The move was followed by waves of patriotic Saudis launching a campaign via Twitter to boycott Emirati goods.
This came despite the fact that the UAE is Saudi Arabia’s second-largest trading partner after China by import value.
“The idea once was to create a GCC market, but now there’s the realization that the priorities of Saudi Arabia and the UAE are very different,” Amir Khan, senior economist at Saudi National Bank, told Reuters in July. “This regulation is putting flesh on the bone of these political divergences,” Khan said.
So, where do things go from here?
An OPEC deal was reached in mid-July, and the Saudi and Emirati energy ministers praised each other and the work of the group of oil producers. Still, economic competition — at a time where returns for oil-producing nations are extremely volatile — isn’t set to go away anytime soon.
“We’re coming out of this pandemic where every country in the world needs to figure out a way to economically recover,” Tobias Borck, a research fellow specializing in Gulf affairs at the Royal United Services Institute in London, told CNBC. “But for the Gulf monarchies, especially for Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia, that is compounded by the fact that they are also under pressure to figure out a way to transform their economies and get away from relying on oil.”
“In that environment, quite frankly, everyone is going to look after number one,” Borck continued. “And for all the genuine friendship and continued pragmatic alignment, when it comes to economic matters, at some point that friendship ends and it becomes about looking after yourself.”
For the Emirati professor Abdulla, “rivalry is too strong of a term” to describe what’s going on between the two countries.
“It could be a controlled, managed, friendly competition,” he told CNBC. “Or it could get out of hand, and we will see it intensify in the months and years to come. We are still in the first five minutes of the competition. We don’t know how it is going to evolve — and it might have some impact on the political issues that bind the two countries together, some political spillover.”
“There are clearly multiple areas where they are on a collision course in the economic sphere,” Borck said. “You’ve now sort of put your position out, and at the moment, those positions are on a collision course. Whether they’re going to remain so? We’ll see.”
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