By Jeff Bollig –
Kristen Hosek-Walker loves her job.
As a travel agent in the Sioux Falls office for Acendas Travel, she specializes in putting smiles on faces. And when she can take a break, she gets to explore the world so she can put a smile on her own face. Therefore, when she had a chance to get away in late September, Kristen jumped at the opportunity to visit her favorite destination — Jamaica.
“I just love it,” Hosek-Walker says. “The people, the weather, the beaches — all of it. It is my favorite place in the world to visit. I’d recommend it to anyone.”
That recommendation does not come with qualifiers, even though standards have been put in place as a result of the pandemic. From leaving her doorstep in Sioux Falls to arriving at the Sandals Negril Resort on the west coast of the Caribbean Island country, she was impressed by what she saw and experienced. At no point did she feel her personal health or safety was threatened. Everything at the resort was open including restaurants, spas, pools and the excursions. In many ways, she felt less restricted than what she experiences back home on a daily basis. The one caveat was resort guests were not allowed to go offsite for activities.
“I felt I needed to take the trip for two reasons,” Hosek-Walker says. “First, I needed to get out and experience travel so that I could share that experience with them. And second, I had not traveled since a river cruise last year.
I needed to get away. That is the great thing about travel, you can get away, unplug and leave your worries behind.”To take the trip, Walker had to first apply to the Jamaican Tourism Bureau and provide a negative Covid19 test no earlier than 10 days prior to arrival. Once confirmed, she had a temperature check upon landing and then again going through customs. The resort did not require guests to wear masks, although the staff did. During her trip from Sept. 22-29, Walker estimates the resort was at 20 percent capacity. She did say her Delta flight to Montego Bay was full with the exception of the middle seats.
One aspect of the trip that Kristen claims is a must, is the purchase of Club Mobay. It is Jamaica’s VIP service that fast tracks travelers through the customs and immigration process. For example, they made it from the airplane to customs in 15 minutes because of the service; while waiting, she learned that some travelers had to wait in line as long as three hours because the service was not secured.
Hosek-Walker does see a bright light at the end of the tunnel. Because of the safety precautions implemented by theIMG_9605 (1) airlines and resorts, she says there is a growing body of feedback that the travel experience is positive and worthwhile. In fact, she is seeing a steady increase in her clients inquiring about and eventually booking travel. In addition, she says the long-term benefit of improved health and safety measures will be a significant benefit to travelers.
Watch a short video here.