Excerpt from seattletimes.com
Every day at noon, a melodic chime reverberates across the Caribbean island of Montserrat. For nearly two months, Krystal Bajkor, a visitor from North Carolina, assumed it was a clock marking time.
“I thought it was just an adorable feature of the small island,” said Bajkor, a former financial analyst who is currently writing a children’s book.
Then in June, her husband, a management consultant, learned that the pleasant-sounding “clock” was, in fact, a daily test of the volcano warning system. The Soufriere Hills volcano, which buried large swaths of the island in rocks and ash in the late 1990s, continues to be active, producing a cloud of hot gas, which appears to hover over its crater.
The meaning of the chime is one of those things that Bajkor might have missed had she been a typical tourist. Before the pandemic, most visitors to Montserrat floated in for maybe a day, anchoring their sailboats in the port or scurrying off the ferry for a hike before returning to nearby Antigua for the night.
Now in order for a tourist to even set foot on Montserrat’s black sand beaches, she must pass a rigorous background check and make at least $70,000 a year. Until recently, she also had to commit to sticking around for at least two months. In exchange, visitors get almost exclusive access not only to beaches, but also an alternate reality, roughly the size of Manhattan, where the coronavirus does not seem to exist.
Soon after the British territory detected its first few coronavirus cases in March 2020, it closed its borders to tourists. In April 2021, it cautiously reopened with the remote worker program, requiring both vaccinated and unvaccinated visitors to quarantine for two weeks and then take a coronavirus test before exploring the island. So far, 21 travelers from seven families have participated.
The island is certainly not alone in devising creative ways to lure visitors during the pandemic…
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