As Alaska faces another summer without cruise ships, the state is removing a roadblock for travelers.
Tourists are no longer required to have a negative coronavirus test to avoid quarantine under new guidelines that went into place Sunday. The state is still telling travelers they “should consider” taking a test within 72 hours of departure. People who test positive for the virus are not allowed to travel to the state.
“While Alaska resident and non-resident travelers will no longer be required to have pre-travel negative tests upon arrival, it is still considered one of the best mechanisms to track the virus and prevent community spread,” a statement from the governor’s office said. Airport testing options will remain in place.
Testing at airports is now free for all travelers. It was previously $250 for non-residents.
The change came as Alaska’s covid-19 disaster declaration expired. The state started offering the option of testing as an alternative to a 14-day quarantine in June.
“My administration will begin moving Alaska, its economy and our lives forward through this transition and recovery process,” Gov. Mike Dunleavy said in a statement. “Make no mistake about it, the virus may be with us for some time. But the data shows that the worst is most likely behind us.”
Before the pandemic, Alaska expected 2.2 million people to visit in 2020. Of those, 1.4 million would have visited by cruise ship. But no large ships were able to come after most cruises were grounded, and other forms of travel were curtailed as well. Actual 2020 visitor numbers were not yet available.
After Canada said that it would ban cruise ships through early 2022, effectively putting an end to hopes for any kind of 2021 cruise season in Alaska, tourism-dependent businesses said they were hopeful that travelers would still come to the state by air.
“The current state health advisory provides pathways for people to travel responsibly and experience Alaska’s wide-open spaces,” Sarah Leonard, president and CEO of the Alaska Travel Industry Association, said in a statement. “It’s incredibly important to our member businesses and our tourism sector that we continue to reopen and welcome more out-of-state travelers this year.”
The association’s website notes that the former travel mandates and orders have become advisories, but it says travelers should still follow those processes and best practices.
“We strongly urge travelers to continue to get a COVID-19 test before they come to Alaska to help the state mitigate the transmission and control the spread of the COVID-19 virus and its variants,” Leonard said.
Travel during the pandemic: