The unwinding of Hawaii’s COVID-19 travel rules continues.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige confirmed this week that the state’s Safe Travels program will come to an end after March 25, allowing domestic visitors to travel to Hawaii without having to show proof of vaccination or a negative test result, and without having to quarantine upon arrival.
International travelers will still have to abide by U.S. rules, which require inbound travelers to provide proof of a negative test taken within 24 hours before departure and proof of vaccination (industry groups, including ASTA and U.S. Travel, continue to push for a removal of that rule).
According to Ige, the motivation behind the program was to “protect the health, lives, and livelihoods of the people of Hawaii,” and now, with lower case counts (daily new cases are down to below 200 from above 6,200 in early January) and hospitalizations continuing to drop, the state feels comfortable enough to drop the requirements.
"The program put in place safety protocols that included a multi-layered screening and testing approach that kept our communities safe during the COVID-19 surgery that endangered the most vulnerable of our citizens. Right now, we are seeing lower case counts, and hospitalizations are coming down," Ige said in a statement.
The state will continue to enforce its indoor mask mandate, the last remaining U.S. state to do so.
The plan had always been for Hawaii to start to loosen restrictions once its residents were at least 70% vaccinated and once case counts dropped, but Omicron’s surge changed that timeline. The variant’s impact was strong enough to compel Gov. Ige to reportedly consider adding a booster-shot requirement for domestic visitors (Ige announced last month that he and his team had decided against it).
Hawaii’s government had long focused on the return of its travel sector, which had proved resilient despite the state having some of the stricter COVID-19-era travel rules.
Even with the restrictions, Hawaii remained one of the top domestic destinations in 2021 according to members of the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA). In a survey released last month, USTOA members said that Hawaii was the third most popular domestic choice for consumers, following the National Parks and Alaska.